LOS ANGELES BALLET ARTISTS TRY VENICE BEACH'S NEW STRETCH LAB

by Spot LA


 Allyssa Bross, a principal dancer with the  Los Angeles Ballet  on her 7th season, knows how important it is to stretch. Recently, she tried out Venice Beach's new  Stretch Lab , and she loved it. 

Allyssa Bross, a principal dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet on her 7th season, knows how important it is to stretch. Recently, she tried out Venice Beach's new Stretch Lab, and she loved it. 

 Allyssa provided feedback on the Stretch Lab and a little backstory as well.   THE IMPORTANCE OF STRETCHING  Since the time I was three years old I have been living in tutus. Ballet classes were the fun activity that every parent put their little girl in. My parents just didn’t realize that this was going to eventually turn into my profession. Fast forward several years and I am now a Principal Dancer with Los Angeles Ballet. Some of the most common words used to describe a ballet dancer would be graceful, slender, and flexible. 

Allyssa provided feedback on the Stretch Lab and a little backstory as well. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRETCHING

Since the time I was three years old I have been living in tutus. Ballet classes were the fun activity that every parent put their little girl in. My parents just didn’t realize that this was going to eventually turn into my profession. Fast forward several years and I am now a Principal Dancer with Los Angeles Ballet. Some of the most common words used to describe a ballet dancer would be graceful, slender, and flexible. 

 Most people who haven’t grown up in a dance studio tend to think that the majority of a dancer’s time is spent stretching. What they don’t realize is that stretching is never built into a dancer’s schedule. It is something that has to be done on one’s own time.  I spend about 7 hours a day in rehearsals learning choreography, running through ballets that we are about to perform. Then in the evening I spend another 3 hours teaching students at Los Angeles Ballet School. When I first joined the company I never took time to stretch at night. I had always been pretty flexible as a kid, and didn’t really understand the importance of stretching.

Most people who haven’t grown up in a dance studio tend to think that the majority of a dancer’s time is spent stretching. What they don’t realize is that stretching is never built into a dancer’s schedule. It is something that has to be done on one’s own time.

I spend about 7 hours a day in rehearsals learning choreography, running through ballets that we are about to perform. Then in the evening I spend another 3 hours teaching students at Los Angeles Ballet School. When I first joined the company I never took time to stretch at night. I had always been pretty flexible as a kid, and didn’t really understand the importance of stretching.

   With such a rigorous schedule, my body began to break down. I was noticing that my muscles were tighter and were causing pain in other joints and areas of my body. There was one simple solution, STRETCHING. Carving out time to stretch and roll out on a foam roller in the evening after an intense day of working out, has made all the difference.      I recently went to the StretchLab in Venice and was pleasantly surprised. This is a place where people can drop in to have someone stretch them out. What a genius idea! Stretching isn’t just beneficial to dancers, it’s beneficial for everyone because it increases blood flow, lengthens your muscles, and decreases the risk of injury. I loved how personal the experience was. Every client gets paired with a flexologist who caters the stretching to whatever the client needs. They use slight resistance to get the muscles to release into a deep stretch, but only going as far as the client prefers.

 With such a rigorous schedule, my body began to break down. I was noticing that my muscles were tighter and were causing pain in other joints and areas of my body. There was one simple solution, STRETCHING. Carving out time to stretch and roll out on a foam roller in the evening after an intense day of working out, has made all the difference.  

I recently went to the StretchLab in Venice and was pleasantly surprised. This is a place where people can drop in to have someone stretch them out. What a genius idea! Stretching isn’t just beneficial to dancers, it’s beneficial for everyone because it increases blood flow, lengthens your muscles, and decreases the risk of injury. I loved how personal the experience was. Every client gets paired with a flexologist who caters the stretching to whatever the client needs. They use slight resistance to get the muscles to release into a deep stretch, but only going as far as the client prefers.

  Everyone working there was so friendly and passionate about their job and the space was beautiful with tons of windows. My friend Bianca Bulle (soloist with Los Angels Ballet) and I went to the StretchLab and then walked to dinner feeling so loose afterwards. I can definitely see it becoming the new craze. Who wouldn’t want to meet up with their friend, get stretched out for 40 minutes, and then grab coffee?!  -Allyssa 

 Everyone working there was so friendly and passionate about their job and the space was beautiful with tons of windows. My friend Bianca Bulle (soloist with Los Angels Ballet) and I went to the StretchLab and then walked to dinner feeling so loose afterwards. I can definitely see it becoming the new craze. Who wouldn’t want to meet up with their friend, get stretched out for 40 minutes, and then grab coffee?!

-Allyssa 


Kickstarter - Martha Graham

by Spot LA


I just learned the Martha Graham company has a Kickstarter Campaign.  The company is looking to raise $25,000 towards the creation of a new work from the Company with renowned international choreographer and Artistic Director of Staatsballett Berlin, Nacho Duato.   So awesome.  I love his work.  The Campaign already has 15 backers with 29 days to go.  Click here to support the creation of new work for the company and the best thing, you can contribute whatever you feel is meaningful to you.  Plus, you'll have access to a few "behind the scenes" activities like streamed rehearsal showings and creative conversations.  Be a part of it.

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Dancing Abroad in Question for you? Read This

by Spot LA


So, if you’re a reader of my blog, chances are you’re like me and you have tons of friends who are dancing abroad.   I’ve been around a lot of dancers lately and many of them are chatting about all the opportunities beyond the US. I contacted my good friend, Stayce Camparo, soloist with Theater Augsburg in Germany and here’s her advice about things to consider when making the jump.  But first, here's more about Stayce.

 

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Raised in Redondo Beach, California, Stayce trained in Santa Monica while participating in prestigious dance programs with School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theater, The Rock School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet where she spent two years on full scholarship in the professional division program. From 2003 to 2012, Stayce danced with the Kansas City Ballet where she worked with noted choreographers including Donald McKayle, Val Caniparolli, Robert Hill, Trey McIntyre, Jessica Lang, and Karol Armitage in various soloist and principal roles.  Some of her favorites include Calliope in Balanchine’s “Apollo,” Amelia in José Limon’s “The Moore’s Pavane,” leads in Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” and “Serenade,” Jessica Lang’s “Splendid Isolation III,” and Bruce Mark’s “Lark Ascending.” In 2012, she moved to Germany to dance with Augsburg Ballett performing the lead in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Dangerous Liaisons,” and principal roles in works by Regina Van Berkel and Douglas Lee.  Since joining the company she has also worked with Kevin O’Day, Maurice Causey, and Christian Spuck and choreographed on dancers for Augsburg Ballett’s “Destillation 3” evening. Stayce has participated in workshops with Alonzo King of LINES Ballet and in José Limon technique.  Her choreographic commissions include pieces for Motion Dance Theater in Asheville, NC  and Quixotic Fusion in Kansas City as well as choreographing pieces for Kansas City Ballet’s “In the Wings” evening three years in a row. She is also a co-choreographer for organist, Hans Davidsson choreographing and dancing in organ festivals in Sweden and Denmark. Stayce’s love for the creative process led her to develop the contemporary dance project, Exhibit Sway in 2011, lending opportunities for dancers to choreograph in a collaborative effort with local artists.  Stayce continues to dance for Augsburg Ballet while finding more opportunities to choreograph around Europe.    

The Ballet world may be small, but everyone seems to carve quite a different path from anyone else.  I moved to Europe after 9 years of professional work at the Kansas City Ballet.  My career was sustained on a classical and neoclassical repertoire (Balanchine, Robbins, Petipa).   I wanted more exposure to European choreography, not only as a dancer, but as an aspiring choreographer as well.  I ended up joining Augsburg Ballet; a very contemporary ballet company with nearly 90% “new creation” work/season.  I packed my life into two and a half suitcases & made the move that many ballet dancers decide to make.  After a year dancing in Germany and a little more German language in my vocab., I can finally reach out to those that are thinking about making the same choice and give a little advice.

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Top 10 Things to Consider When Dancing Abroad:

1.     Moving to Europe obviously puts you closer to European choreographers and their choreography.  What you may not realize though is precisely how small the ballet world is in Europe.  Because there are so many freelance choreographers in Europe, many creations are being done, and as choreographers jump around to various companies, your name goes with them once you’ve worked with them.   The networking scene is so fantastic in Europe that I not only doubled my C.V, but expanded my circle to include companies in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and across Germany.

2.     Moving to Germany seemed pretty exotic and dream-like when I first got the offer.  Augsburg happens to be a “fairy tale” city with cobble stoned streets in the heart of Bavaria.  Consider the gastronomy, though, when taking up residence in a new city.  Bavaria also happens to be the capital of Bretzen and Beer.  Carbohydrate temptation is difficult for me to say no to.

3.     Keep in mind that regardless what theater you work in, healthcare is most probably going to be better and easier to come by than in the States.  I’ve had the experience of walking into an Orthopedic Surgeons office when my neck went out and within 10 minutes had a prescription for muscle relaxers in hand.    

4.     It may seem pretty obvious, but make sure you really understand the entirety of living in a country where you probably don’t speak the language.  Though many dancers get by without taking courses, I would advise at least learning the basics phrases of whatever country you are moving to.  Especially in the first couple months you will be looking for a flat, registering for internet, getting a phone, furniture, bank account, work visa, etc.  It always helps to know a little of the language.

5.     Moving to Europe is very different than moving from one State in the US to another.  One thing to be very conscious of is the fact that you will most likely be leaving everything behind.  Your blow dryer and electric toothbrush won’t work in Europe unless you buy an adaptor and shipping costs are super expensive, especially US to Europe.  I came with my clothes and a few unframed photos, but within a year I had accumulated a few European treasures that will stay with me for a lifetime.

6.     It is also good to consider that once you fly over the Atlantic to your destination, you probably won’t be making the trek back for a while.  Flights can be very expensive and chances are you won’t have very much time off that justifies the 6-10 hour flight.  With that being said, there is a world of experience right at your doorstep if you live in Europe.   Most places are incredibly accessible by train and flights within Europe can be very cheap. 

7.     Remember that Europe is a lot older than the States and some Theaters were built before our Constitution was even created.  Though the history is grand and the decoration beautiful, some European stages are raked or incredibly hard.  Dancers can easily adapt to this, but know that it may be a bit of a shock and take some time.

8.     One fantastic thing about European ballet companies is that they belong to a theater, which houses the Ballet, Opera, Symphony, and in some cases, a theater group.  While in the States the Ballet is usually it’s own entity, in Europe you have exposure to the other houses within the Theater.  This will give you opportunities to experience other art forms, but also chances to meet other artists and possibly collaborate with them.

9.     European companies will most likely have a very diverse ensemble.  This is an incredibly rewarding work environment, because if it is direct exposure to other cultures.  However, keep in mind, that some of the cultural nuances can seep into how one works with someone else.  Tolerance comes in handy while working abroad. Keep in mind that in some companies where English is spoken, you won’t be using a wide range of vocabulary, so keep reading and keeping your English fresh and alive.

10. One last and very important thing to consider when dancing in Europe is that AGMA does not exist here.  Depending on where you work, workdays and weeks could be incredibly long.  I’ve had to don pointe shoes on a carpeted floor, and though the choreography was modified, I was not happy about it to say the least.   It is not as scary as it sounds, but one should definitely be aware of this fact.

With all the positives and negatives I’ve encountered along the way this past year, I have to say that moving to Europe has been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and for my career.  Europe is rich in Art and with every turn around a corner, you can see it.  Europe was the birthplace for many artistic revolutions and styles and is continuing to pave the road in artistic ingenuity.  I feel incredibly lucky to not only have front row seats to this progress, but now be a part of it as well.  

 

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Inside David Hallberg's Conversation with Michael Kaiser at the Kennedy Center

by Spot LA


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Guest Contributer Rick Westerkamp takes us to Washington, DC for a conversation with Bolshoi Premiere Dancer David Hallberg and Kennedy Center President, Michael Kaiser

On Saturday, September 7, 2013 at The Kennedy in Washington, DC, Michael Kaiser, President of The Kennedy Center, adroitly interviewed ABT principal dancer and Bolshoi Ballet premier dancer David Hallberg. Hallberg, thirty-one years old, is the Bolshoi’s first and only American premier in the company’s 237-year history.  

The audience, which consisted of dancers, choreographers, patrons of the arts, and arts enthusiasts of all ages, was taken on a wonderful point-by-point journey through Hallberg’s career. Kaiser stopped the timeline at the turning points, both personally and professionally, to delve into Hallberg’s feelings in and about those moments. The arc of the interview was truly breathtaking, thanks to Kaiser, and showcased an articulate, humble, profound, and sensitive Hallberg. 

Kaiser began the interview by saying, “David, on your Twitter bio, you describe yourself with a series of words that start with the letter ‘d.’ Do you remember them?” Hallberg said, frankly, “No.” Kaiser went on to quote @DavidHallberg’s Twitter bio: “’dancer, dreamer, detailed, defective, distracted, discreet, delicate, dog, doomed.’ We have an hour. Explain.” Hallberg explained that said bio is six years old and that it was, perhaps, an effort to be poetic. From his love of dogs, having grown up with golden retrievers, to the idea that all artists are, to some extent dreamers, to his self-professed delicate nature, some of these words seemed quintessentially Hallberg. When asked about the use of the word doomed he said, “Doomed because it’s never good enough. And I still feel that way five years later, I guess. As an artist, I think, it’s never good enough. There’s something to work on. I’ve maybe been pleased with a couple performances that I can count on one hand in a twelve-year career. But, you know, that’s the shape of the art form.” These profound words on the fleeting nature of a career in the performing arts were merely the tip of the iceberg that is this interview, from an artist who was just warming up to his interviewer. 

Kaiser started at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start, in the career of David Hallberg. Fred Astaire was Hallberg’s first and foremost dance inspiration. The nature of the inspiration stemmed from the fluidity, elegance, and class of Astaire’s movement. “I taped nickels on the bottom of my penny loafers, and the nickels would eventually start falling off, but I would just try and make noise with my feet,” Hallberg recalled. After that, Hallberg’s family moved to Arizona, which thrilled David because he was closer to Hollywood. He was immersed in jazz and tap classes, the competition dance scene, and aspired to work in LA and do music videos. 

While in Arizona David met Mr. Kee-Juan Han, who was director of The School of Ballet Arizona from 1993-2003 and is now the director of The Washington School of Ballet, who was in attendance and received gracious applause. Mr. Han, as David admirably refers to him, was, “the first and singular teacher that gave me the technique and guided me on this path, and I still hold that as a thirty-one year old.” Mr. Han used subtlety to suggest Hallberg train in ballet, and for the last four years that Hallberg spent in Phoenix, the training was strict, but not belligerent. “You’re starting very late. You have a lot of catching up to do. If you want, we can do that, but this is not going to be easy,” Hallberg remembers Mr. Han telling him. The strict regimen of classes and private sessions drilled Hallberg and caught him up. Said Hallberg, “My parents would come and watch the privates sometimes, and I would be doubled over after my seventh set of coupé jeté [which is the big circle male dancers do], and he’d look over at my parents and say, ‘How’s Mommy and Daddy doing?’” Hallberg recalls the overwhelming trust that he and his parents put in Mr. Han’s coaching, and his parents’ ability to nurture his love and talent for the art of dance, which I find a refreshing sentiment in a world dominated by Lifetime’s contrived series Dance Moms

At the age of seventeen, Hallberg was accepted to The Paris Opera Ballet School, thanks to an audition tape Mr. Han recorded, which was shown in the interview. Said Hallberg of his sixteen-year old self in the audition tape, “I’m all arms and legs. I have absolutely no control of my body. I didn’t know what to do.” Kaiser quickly chimed in, “But you got accepted.” Hallberg admitted that he did not anticipate that he would be accepted into the program for various reasons, though he admires the company and the school as being a gold standard. Of his time in the program, he said, “It was difficult for me because I was the only American in a school of 180. There were four foreigners. I didn’t speak French. It was my senior year of high school so for academics in the morning I was put with sixth graders. I was coming in the last division… It was difficult. I was pushed in the back of the studio, sort of forgotten about, not allowed to perform with the school, had no friends. Kids even made fun of me in front of my face. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.” 

Kaiser propelled the interview forward, asking if Hallberg’s time in the corps de ballet with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was frustrating. Hallberg’s responded quite candidly, saying, “Ooo, [you’re] going for it. I think my healthy ego at the time was frustrated.” Hallberg cited Paloma Herrera’s sensational rise to principal dancer, with ABT, at the age of nineteen as the antithesis of what he was ready for at that time. “I needed a year in the studio company. I needed a year in the corps. I needed everything that was given to me. I was just so hungry, so blindingly hungry, and Kevin McKenzie was so smart. He just nurtured me from day one, and took his time, and really was so patient with me,” said Hallberg. He spoke with nothing but fond memories of his time in the community of the corps de ballet, in the way that many people in the world of work look back on their years in college fraternities or sororities. 

After four years with ABT, Hallberg was promoted to principal dancer at the age of twenty-three. Kaiser said, “You’ve danced with many partners at ABT, but you forged a special partnership with [Natalia] Osipova. Talk about Osipova as a dancer.” Of Osipova, the Russian ballerina, Hallberg said, “She is, in a sense, who I would like to be as a dancer. I’m sure a lot of you have seen her dance. She runs absolutely by the beat of her own drum. She questions everything and makes everything her own. And she taught me this, because I respond to, sort of, direction. I like someone in the studio coaching me, teaching me, the whole nine yards. She has her own vision of things.” In ballet, much like in life, opposites attract and make for amazing onstage chemistry. Hallberg spoke of his and Osipova’s differences, what with their significant size difference, as well as the types of roles people see them performing onstage. “What people think is that she would fit the bravura roles better, so like Don Quixote, Flames of Paris, and things like this. And for me, I’m the prince and I do Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake… the classics. And so, you would think that at first it doesn’t really fit, but for some reason it’s just magnetic.”

Hallberg went on to say just how unexpected his involvement as the first foreign-born premier dancer at The Bolshoi Ballet was. While on tour with ABT in Moscow, Hallberg was approached by Sergei Filin’s assistant for a meeting. Filin (Russian ballet dancer and director of The Bolshoi Ballet since 2011) told Hallberg, “I have two offers for you. One of them is that you come as a guest, dance with the company, and do a series of performances that we would figure out… The second offer is to be the first American premier at The Bolshoi Ballet full-time.” Hallberg recalls a feeling of calm upon hearing the offer, after which he was told that the Kremlin and the General Director of The Bolshoi had both approved this initiative. The one person Hallberg consulted in making this decision was Alexei Ratmansky, Russian choreographer, former ballet dancer, artist in residence at ABT, and former director of The Bolshoi Ballet. While their paths had crossed professionally at ABT, their personal relationship was not intimate by any means. Hallberg admired Ratmansky’s intelligence and calm demeanor. Ratmansky told him, “You must do this. This is so important. This is the time for The Bolshoi. This is such an exciting time. Sergei has taken over the company. You must do this.” It was the forward advice of his trusted compatriot in the arts that gave him the confidence to take on the role with The Bolshoi Ballet.

Kaiser went on to ask about the difficulties of going between his principal roles with ABT and his premier roles with The Bolshoi Ballet. “I didn’t know how difficult it would be until it was right there, right in my face,” said Hallberg. “I was just ping-ponging back and forth. If I’m going to be brutally honest, it wasn’t the right thing to do. My performances suffered. I was under such extreme pressure. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.” Kaiser inquired as to whether Hallberg has found a better formula for his professional life, the response to which was committing more time to one or the other. Hallberg expressed how grateful he is for the flexibility and openness each company has shown him, and continues to show him.

When Kaiser inquired about any roles that he would like to perform in the future that he hasn’t already performed, Hallberg cited his overwhelming inspiration upon attending The National Gallery of Art’s exhibit on Diaghilev and The Ballet Russes. He mentioned roles in Petrushka, Le Spectre de la Rose, and Afternoon of a Faun as roles that have already been created that strike his fancy, but his desired roles are in new works. “The perpetual search of a dancer is to find a voice within another choreographer working today. And I’ve found that voice in Alexei Ratmansky. He’s created a lot of his ballets on me with ABT and the relationship has really bloomed. It’s really come into fruition… And I would love to find that with other choreographers.” 

When asked about how the attack on Filin has affected him and his comfort level in Moscow, Hallberg transcended this interview and blew me away with the following profound quote: “First and foremost, art is sacred. It serves as an escape for the masses, whether it is Beyoncé, or Andy Warhol, or whatever. Art is sacred, and an attack like what happened to Sergei is, in the real world, totally unacceptable, but in the art world… I guess it’s unacceptable in any form, but this is the art world, and that is sacred. It serves as escapism for people. And to do something like that to someone who has such an unbelievable vision for a company as important as Bolshoi is… I have no words for it.” Hallberg went on to comment on the utter ingenuity of Sergei Filin’s vision for the Bolshoi, what with the hiring of himself, other foremost choreographers of today, etc.

During the time of the attack, Hallberg was not in Moscow but back in the United States, due to injury. Kaiser inquired about what he did while injured for ten months. Hallberg said, “I calmed down. I came to the realization that I’m not a robot. I am human and I can break. I spent two months on crutches. I went to Maine and ate oysters. I hobbled through the Grand Canyon. People walked by me and said, ‘That sucks,’” to which the audience, Hallberg, and Kaiser shared a laugh. “I wanted to get back in the saddle and I wasn’t ready,” said Hallberg. “What stressed me out the most was not being able to fulfill those obligations.” Hallberg commented on the fact that he started to doubt his physicality and the power and strength of his body, upon his return to dancing. 

Ending on a fulfilling note, giving perfect shape to the arc of his masterful interview, Kaiser asked, “Do you think about your life after dancing?” Hallberg responded with an easy eloquence, saying: “Every day of my life… I’ve thought about it for years, maybe before I got into the company at ABT… I have had to be patient with that. I am not a patient person.” Hallberg said, “Challenge and risk is life.” He went on to say that he would like to continue to delve into the unknown, perhaps through a field with which he is unfamiliar. He mentioned a couple potential artistic avenues, such as running a company, or directing something, or serving as a curator somewhere. “I would like to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it being a little cloudy. Not knowing what that light is and knowing what is through that tunnel is met with challenges that I can take on, and risks that I can take, and opportunities that I can grab at that can continue to serve me as an artist and a human. That is very important to me.” 

Michael Kaiser structured a whole interview, looking at the life of the dancer through the lens of one of the brightest stars in the ballet scene today, David Hallberg. Kaiser’s final question addressed how Hallberg plans to address the “final years of his dancing career.” Hallberg landed on a modern sentiment: balancing the classics with exploring opportunities out of his comfort zone, which is something any artist can and should strive for to some extent. Whether it is working with artists outside of his genre, collaborating with avant-garde performance artists, or focusing on his mentorship program, he plans to stay aware, observing opportunity, and striking while the iron is hot. 

Hallberg will be back at The Kennedy Center this spring, with The Bolshoi Ballet, which is now a must-see after hearing the majestic physical performer converse so eloquently on his career and his craft. You can follow Hallberg and The Kennedy Center on Twitter, at @DavidHallberg and @kencen respectively. The link to the full interview is: http://www.kennedy-center.org/explorer/videos/?id=A81876

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Rick Westerkamp is an actor/dancer/choreographer/critic/teaching artist, living and working in Washington, DC.


Spotlight - Mario Zambrano and Lotería by Harper Collins

by Spot LA


After my  morning workouts I usually tune into my favorite news radio program on my Iphone.  A few days ago, Mario Zambrano and his new book Lotería had my fullest attention.  The first thing that made me so interested was hearing that Zambrano  was a contemporary ballet dancer before dedicating his time to writing fiction.  Not too many people on this morning news program come from an artistic background.  Mario has lived in Israel, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Japan, and has danced for Hubbard Street Dance ChicagoNederlands Dans TheaterBallett Frankfurt, and Batsheva Dance Company. He graduated from The New School as a Riggio Honors Fellow and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as an Iowa Arts Fellow, where he also received a John C. Schupes Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction. He discussed his book and its definitely on my list to read next.  But don't take my word for it.  Read his post for Spot La about his new book and his life in the dance field below.

 

 Mario Zambrano in Shusaku Takeuchi  Garnet

Mario Zambrano in Shusaku Takeuchi Garnet

 Mario Zambrano in Nacho Duato's  Na Floresta

Mario Zambrano in Nacho Duato's Na Floresta

The day after I started dancing when I was eleven years, no one could sway me from believing that dance would always be a part of me. During that awkward stage of trying to find myself (though, as you go through life you're always trying to find yourself), I was so passionately in love with dancing that I was intolerant to anyone who'd suggest my feelings would change. I joined my first company at seventeen, with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, left to Europe to join Netherlands Dans Theater three years later, and from there, joined Batsheva Dance Company in Israel before ending my career with Ballett Frankfurt, led by William Forsythe, when I was twenty-seven. By that point I was completely worn-out and I needed a change, but I still had a creative itch that needed to be tended to.

But who was I if not a dancer? 

I tried choreographing—making pieces for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Nederlands Dans Theater 2—but found, after awhile, that I was uncomfortable with the process. My creative insecurities were heightened in the face of the dancers, and I didn't feel at ease. What I decided to do was to go back to school. While studying literature through an online university while living in Spain, I took a fiction class and found a perfect practice that suited my creative and solitary disposition. 

At the time, I felt as though it were the most absurd thing in the world. To be a writer. I'm not a writer, I thought. But it didn't matter because I loved doing it. And little by little, I started writing a book that would eventually become my first— Lotería, recently published by HarperCollins. 

It's a story about a young Mexican American girl named Luz Maria Castillo who tries to piece her life together using a deck of cards from a traditional game similar to bingo. There are fifty-three parts, each a vignette corresponding to a card, and in a way the novel is built like a house of cards. But what I found interesting during the revision process was that I'd lay out the cards on a table and move them around in whichever sequence I wanted them to be in. In a way, it was as though I was choreographing a piece. 

When people ask me if there are any similarities between dancing and writing, I mention the act of improvising. As a dancer there are those moments when you step into a studio and improvise, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour, and there's this incredible focus that gets activated. Something very similar happens when you write a story, especially during the first draft. You lose yourself in the act of doing it, and like dancing, you can write for as long as you like. There's no interdependency, but rather, an independence. 

 Zambrano's new book cover of  Lotería

Zambrano's new book cover of Lotería

 Mario Zambrabo in Ohad Naharin's  VIRUS

Mario Zambrabo in Ohad Naharin's VIRUS


Spotlight - Caroline Rocher

by Spot LA


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Caroline Rocher trained at the Conservatoire de Montpellier in France, and later in Switzerland at the Rudra Béjart Lausanne school. In 1998, she relocated to the United States, to study at New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, joined Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1999 and was promoted to principal dancer the following year. Rocher has performed leading roles in notable works by Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Michael Smuin, plus many by George Balanchine including Apollo, Concerto Barocco, The Four Temperaments and The Prodigal Son. Her partners onstage have included ballet stars Vladimir Malakhov and Damian Woetzel. In 2004, Rocher appeared in the Gala des Étoiles du 21ème siècle in Paris, then joined Germany’s Bayerisches Staatsballett. Rocher joined LINES Ballet in 2007 after one year as member of France’s Lyon Opéra Ballet.  Here are some of Caroline's Favs.  Enjoy!

 

Inspirations:

Favorite discoveries - Caroline loves going to see new exhibits and exploring the cities she travels to.  She recently visited Barcelona and was just marveled by Gaudi's architecture. 

Shopping - Loehmann's, Lululemon,  BCBG, and Karen Millen

Necessary Extravagance - She's lucky to have a gym with spa in her building and she often uses the whirlpool, steam room and sauna everyday after rehearsal

Favorite Place in the World -  This dancer hasn't made up her mind yet.  Its a toss-up between, France, Italy and the Caribbean

Favorite Charity or Nonprofit - "les restaus du coeur" it's a French charity organization that targets poverty and hunger

Favorite Movie - Dirty Dancing, Casablanca, Little Miss Sunshine, Indochine, La vie en Rose...

Favorite Hotel - The Savoy in Köln, Germany- it's just mesmerizing!

Idol - Josephine Baker

Home:

Where do you live - Caroline lives in the heart of San Francisco in the Jazz district 

Favorite Sheets -  sateen

Favorite Drink - a glass of  Veuve Clicquot - her favorite champagne

Favorite Gadget - iPhone 

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant - Tsunami Sushi

  tarte tatin   

 tarte tatin

 

Favorite Dessert - tarte tatin (it's an upside down apple tart) 

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Favorite Snack - multi grain tortilla chips from the "food should taste good" brand 

Favorite Soap - aromatherapy stress relief-eucalyptus/spearmint body wash and foam bath from Bath&Bodyworks

Haircut - her hair is its own entity...so free style 

Coffee or Tea - decaf lemongrass green tea from Good Earth 

Favorite Comfort Food - Swiss dark chocolate with caramelized almonds 

Always in your fridge - depuff eye gel from Origins 

Never leave home without......her keys.  She's been locked myself out too many times:-)!

Clothes:

Favorite Underwear -  bra and panty... As long as they match 

Dance item always in your bag -  Theraband

Favorite Store - Swarovski 

Favorite piece of Jewelry - bangles and sparkly dangling earrings 

 

 

 


Spotlight - Caroline Eckly

by Spot LA


 Carte Blanche, Caroline Eckly.  Photo Credit Jonny Hammeroe

Carte Blanche, Caroline Eckly.  Photo Credit Jonny Hammeroe

Caroline Eckly is originally from Paris, France.  She studied dance at Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Dance de Lyon from 1994 - 1998.  Ms Eckly has danced with such companies as Mind the Gap in Cologne, Compagnie Blanca Li, Theatre du Chatelet, Ballet Actuel Toulouse and Ballet du Cappitole in Toulouse.  She was earlier employed at Tanzteather Nürnberg from 2002, where she worked with many different choreographers such as Stijn Celis, Susanna Leinonen, Yorma Elo, Russel Naliphant and Rui Horta.  She joined Carte Blanche in the autumn of 2008.  Check out some of her Favs below.  Enjoy!

 Photo Credit Yaniv Cohen

Photo Credit Yaniv Cohen

Shopping - Caroline loves to buy books

Necessary Extravagance - Being a company member of Carte Blanche has its perks and she along with her fellow artists are lucky to get an hour massage every two weeks with a fantastic masseuse from Bergen.  Its a real treat for her and in a busy work period, she'll take Magnesium to help the muscles release.

Favorite Place in the World - Paris

Favorite Movie - "Todo Sopra mi Madre" from Pedro Almodovar, "Habemus Papam" from Nanni Moretti, "Django unchained" from Quentin Tarantino

Favorite Hotel - any place with a swimming pool

Where do you live - Bergen, Norway

Favorite Sheets - plain white

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Favorite Drink - Caroline says the Norwegian water is delicious but age also drinks quite a lot of coffee...and loves wine

Favorite Gadget - a little crocodile key-ring that her daughter gave her

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant - Spisekrokken,  in Bergen

Favorite Dessert - Tiramisu

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Favorite Snack - Nuts

Favorite Soap - Savon de Marseilles

Haircut - she wears it short and curly

Coffee or Tea - Coffee

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Favorite Comfort Food - Ms Eckly loves cheese.....

Always in your Fridge - Parmesan Cheese

 Caroline's bag

Caroline's bag

Never Leave Home Without......a book, a pen, lip balsam, and in Norway - gloves

Favorite Underwear - "Princesse Tam-Tam" by Calvin Klein

Favorite Accessory - a leather hand-bag she bought on tour in France with a lot of pockets 

Favorite Store - "Comptoir des cotonniers"

Favorite Piece of Jewelry - a ring from her mother in law


Spotlight - Paulo Arrais

by Spot LA


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Arrais studied at the Gustav Ritter Cultural Center in Brazil, the Paris Opera Ballet School in France, the English National Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School both in England. Upon graduating from the Royal Ballet School, he was awarded the Ninette de Valois Bursary. Arrais was also a finalist at the 9th New York International Competition 2007 and The Youth America Grand Prix 2003 where he received a Scholarship to The Paris Opera Ballet School from the Nureyev Foundation.

In 2010 Arrais moved to the East Coast to Join Boston Ballet as a member of the Corp de Ballet. He was promoted directly to First Soloist in 2011 and to Principal Dancer in 2012.  With Boston Ballet, Arrais has performed in George Balanchine's Midsummer Night'sDream (Puck), Mikko Nissenen's The Nutcracker (Cavalier and Snow King), Florence Clerc's La Bayadere (Golden Idol) and Les Sylphides (The Poet) John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio), Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, Jiri Kylian’s Bella Figura, Rudolf Nuryev's Don Quixote (Basilio), Harald Lander’s Etudes (Principal), as well as solo roles in Jorma Elo's Double Evil, Slice to Sharp and Sharp Side of Dark

Arrais joined the Norwegian National Ballet in 2006 where he worked with choreographers such as William Forsythe, Jiri Killian, Paul Lightfoot, and Sol Leon. He also danced lead roles such as Jester in Anna Marie Holmes’ Swan Lake, Prince Desiree in Cynthia Harvey’s Sleeping  Beauty and Basilio in Rudolf  Nureyev's Don Quixote.

In 2009 Arrais moved to San Francisco to work with the choreographer and company Alonzo King's Lines Ballet. He has toured the USA, France, Italy and taken part in the creation of Alonzo King's Scheherazade which opened the "Centenary of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo".  Here are some of his Favs.  Enjoy!

Favorite discoveries - New countries and cultures

Shopping -  Paulo is a frequent shopper of Osklen.  Whenever he has a chance he always shops there.

Who is your idolAntonio Carlos Jobim

Necessary Extravagance - On occasion, Paulo will have two massages per day

Favorite Place in the World - Paris

Favorite Charity or NonprofitAnimal Rescue League of Boston

Favorite movie - Central Station

 Hotel Costes in Paris France

Hotel Costes in Paris France

Favorite HotelHotel Costes 

Favorite sheets - Tommy Hillfiger

Never leave home without...... Music

Favorite Drink - Caipirinha

Favorite gadget - Iphone

Favorite neighborhood restaurant - Delux Cafe (Southend Boston)

Favorite dessert - Lemon Tarte

Favorite snack - Cereal Bars

Favorite soap - Marrocan Oil

Coffee orTea - Coffee

 Paulo's shoes that have seen the world

Paulo's shoes that have seen the world

Favorite comfort food - Chicken Pie

Always in your fridge - Almond Milk

Favorite Underwear -  Uniclo Purple

Favorite kicks - Dress shoes from ALDO

Favorite accessory - Scarfs

Dance item always in your bag - Muscle roller 

Tie or Bowtie - Paulo will rock either one

Favorite piece of jewelry - No jewelry for this dancer here


Spotlight - Alicia Graf Mack

by Spot LA


 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Andrew Eccles

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Andrew Eccles

Alicia Graf Mack trained (Columbia, MD) trained at Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland under Donna Pidel and attended summer intensives at the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Prior to dancing with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 2005 to 2008, Mrs. Mack was a principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem and a member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. In addition to several galas and festivals, she has been a guest performer with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and with André 3000 and Beyoncé at Radio City Music Hall. She is the recipient of the Columbia University Medal of Excellence and Smithsonian Magazine’s Young Innovator Award. Mrs. Mack graduated magna cum laude with honors in history from Columbia University and received an M.A. in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently,
 Mrs. Mack served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Webster University in St. Louis. She rejoined the Company in 2011.  Here are some of her Favs.  Enjoy!

Favorite Discoveries - Finding God in unexpected places and times

Shopping- Lately, she's been into Uniqlo. She also frequents Style Haven Boutique in Montclair, New Jersey for vintage looks

Necessary Extravagance - Movie rentals from iTunes

Favorite Place in the World - At home with her husband

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Favorite Charity or Nonprofit - Prostate Cancer Network, Inc - It is an organization that her Mother started over 10 years ago in honor of her father who is a prostate cancer survivor.

Favorite Movies - Annie and Brown Sugar.  

Who is your Idol - She has many idols. She idolizes her Dad. "He is the most intelligent, selfless and loving person on the planet."  Her Mom is pretty awesome too! Her dance idol is Carmen de Lavallade

Where do you live - She lives in Columbia, MD when she has time off time and the City when she's working.  Its a different story when she's on tour however.  Alicia often finds herself living out of a suitcase when on tour

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Favorite Sheets - Anything soft

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Favorite Drink - Coffee

Favorite Gadget - She can't live without her iPhone.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant(s) - Ja'Grill in Chicago - Jamaican food. 

Never leave home without - Rosebud Strawberry Lip Balm

Favorite Dessert - Chocolate chip cookies

Favorite Snack - Chips and guacamole

Alicia's Kicks

Favorite Soap - L'occitane with verbena

Haircut - She trims her own hair

Favorite comfort Food - Hamburgers.

Always in your Fridge -  She's never really in one place long enough to buy groceries

Favorite Kicks - She has worn these Steve Madden boots almost every day for a year. They have seen the world - Literally!

Favorite Accessory - Earrings - Alicia love hoops

Dance item always in your bag - Foot Rubz foot massage ball

Favorite piece of jewelry - Her wedding rings


Spotlight - Misty Copeland

by Spot LA


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Misty Copeland started dancing at the age of thirteen. Considered a prodigy, Misty went on to win the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards at fifteen years old. She joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company at age 17 and the Corp De ballet at nineteen. She became the third ever Female, African American Soloist, in the history of ABT at age 24. Last Spring Season she debuted her first leading role as the Firebird, created on her by sought after choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky. Misty has opened up the doors of ballet to a broader audience, venturing outside the box. She has toured the world with musical Icon Prince, as his muse, is the new face of Diet Dr Pepper's new ad campaign "One Of A KInd", Is an Ambassador for The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and has two book deals, due in 2014. Here are some of her Favs.  Enjoy!

Favorite Discoveries - Floor barre, and her manager Gilda Squire. Floor Barre is literally saving her as she struggles through an injury and it teaches her about her body. Gilda is a blessing. She has been so helpful in connecting Misty to an untouched audience and showing them ballet at a high level!

 Raven Wilkinson

Raven Wilkinson

Shopping - Bergdorf Goodman

Necessary Extravagance - Acupuncture, Great perfume and her Eyebrow Practitioner 

Favorite Place in the World - Her home NYC and Tokyo 

Who is your idol - Young aspiring dancers and former ballerina of the Ballet Russe, Raven Wilkinson.

Favorite Charity or Nonprofit - Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Favorite Movie - All about Eve; Barefoot Contessa; and Queen Bee. She can't choose one

Sivory Boutique Hotel/Punta Cana

Favorite Hotel - Sivory Boutique Hotel/Punta Cana

Where do you live - Manhattan NYC Upper Westside

Favorite sheets - An old set of deep purple satin luxury sheets.  She just can't let go of. 

Favorite Drink - Prosecco 

Favorite gadget - Her Ipad 

Favorite neighborhood restaurant(s) - Luxembourg Cafe.  It's right across the street from her apartment and apart of UWS history

Favorite Dessert - Cake, anything cakey - Cupcakes, Red Velvet, Yellow, cheese cake...

Favorite Snack - Nuts and dried fruit is a must have in her dance bag

Favorite Soap - Dove Beauty Bar in cool cucumber. She prefers bar soap to body wash. She feels more clean

Haircut - At the moment, short with long bangs 

Coffee or Tea - Coffee in the morning, Tea at night

Favorite Comfort Food - Sweet potato fries. She's rather embarrassed to admit to it because she's very health conscious.  Misty even occasionally likes them ranch dressing

Always in your Fridge - Grapes

Never leave home without -  Headphones/Music

Favorite Underwear - Chantelle bikinis. Comfortable while still being sexy. 

Favorite Kicks - Louboutin Nude pumps. She lives in heels when not in pointe shoes. 

Favorite Accessory - Tiffany Cuff

Favorite Rehearsal/Class Accessory -  Abbigaile Mentzer Designs, short black skirt

 Alexis Bittar Crystal Encrusted Rhodium Small Drop Earrings.

Alexis Bittar Crystal Encrusted Rhodium Small Drop Earrings.

Favorite Store - Intermix

Favorite piece of Jewelry - Alexis Bittar Crystal Encrusted Rhodium Small Drop Earring  

Lipsitck or Lipgloss (if any) - Mac Lipglass

Mascara - Maybelline Full n Soft Very Black

Shampoo - John Frieda Brilliant Brunette 

Hair Product - John Frieda Frizz Ease Hair Cream

Fragrance (if any) - Creed Aqua Florentina

Toothpaste - Crest Pro-Health


Spotlight - Craig Black

by Spot LA


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Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancer and California native, Craig Black, was Captain of San Jose's nationally ranked high school dance team The Lincoln Convertibles. Craig received his BFA from The Juilliard School, where he was awarded the 2010 Princess Grace Award in Dance. He also won the 2011 Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Craig’s summer programs were at Springboard Danse Montreal, Nederlands Dans Theater, and the Pillow. When he's not performing, Craig is also a master teacher and choreographer for many studios and dance teams around the U.S.  Here are some of his favs.

Favorite Discoveries - Bikram Yoga                                                                    

Shopping - Craig enjoys clothes shopping from thrift stores to Burberry.  He loves to buy paintings and photographs.

Necessary Extravagance - Deep Tissue Massage                                                

Favorite Place in the World - Holland.  He has spent two summers there and loved every second.  He enjoys Disneyland too. It's been six years since his last visit, and wants to fix that.

Favorite Charity or Non-Profit - Humane Society                                                    

Favorite Movie - Moulin Rouge, Bridesmaids, and Peter Pan (2003 version)                

 Hotel Jerome

Hotel Jerome

Favorite Hotel - Hotel Jerome in Aspen                                                                        

Idol - His Family... They all support and love each other in every endeavor

Where Do You Live - Aspen, Colorado

Favorite Sheets - Jersey Knit.  Craig owns almost every color. 

Favorite Drink - Thai Iced Tea, Margarita, and Mojito

Favorite Gadget - Nintendo 64.  Yes, he still own's one and plays all the time.

Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant - Kenichi (Sushi) and Su Casa (Mexican) 

Favorite Dessert - Anything baked - Pies, Cakes, Cookies, Brownies, etc.... Especially with a dollop of ice cream.

Favorite Snack - Melon. Especially Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon

Favorite Soap - Lemongrass and Aloe

Haircut - Whatever mood he might be in for that time, He doesn't have a norm.

Coffee or Tea -  Both, but usually coffee.

Favorite Comfort Food - Grilled Cheese and/or Pancakes

Always In Your Fridge - Orange Juice  

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Never Leave Home Without - iPhone and Chapstick

Favorite Underwear - Ginch Gonch (Monster Trucks print)

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Favorite Kicks - Green Glow in the Dark Nikes

Favorite Accessory - A flat billed hat that says "PLAY DIRTY"

Dance Item Always In Your Bag - The Stick (A roller stick.)

Favorite Store - Burberry

Tie or Bowtie - Bowtie all the way, but he'll rock a regular tie every now and then.

Favorite Piece of Jewelry - A necklace - turtle locket with a clock inside it's shell