Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The bank is always the answer.

4-year old: “Why do you bring your computer to ballet?”

Miss Haley: “It has all my music on it, and my ipod doesn’t work.”

4: “You could get a new one.”

H: “I don’t have any money.”

4: “You can get some from the bank!”

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The mysterious Cesare Pugni

Pugni was an italian composer born in May of 1802. He composed some of the most beautiful music to some of the most famous and traditional ballets in the history of ballet, including but not limited to: pugni

But try to google his name or find a CD on Amazon with his ballets, it’s a tough search!

I have found only a few things. I was trying to find the Pas de Quatre variations so I could teach them to my pointe students but I can’t find a download anywhere!

So far what I’ve found is the website Download Ballet. They have many great albums that are specifically edited variations for performance. They don’t have Pas de Quatre, but they do have lots of other stuff! Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Paquita, etc. Definitely check them out!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My teenagers crack me up…

So this happened in class yesterday…

Miss Haley: pas de chat means “step of the cat.” Saute means “jump.” so what does Saut de chat mean?

Teen: “step of the horse.”

Miss Haley: *glares*

Teen: “step of the dog.”

Miss Haley: *facepalm*

Teen: “step of the snake.”

Miss Haley: *falls on the floor*

Monday, February 8, 2016


“If you’re not grounded EVERYWHERE, you’re not grounded ANYWHERE.”

I have a crazy teacher. Her name is Eileen Juric. She’s what I’d call “nutzo-bananas crazy” but she’s completely brilliant. She’s the one behind Ballet Barre None, and you can check her out on facebook and on her website. I’d totally recommend watching every video she has on youtube because it’ll all change your life.

“If you’re not grounded everywhere, you’re not grounded anywhere.” This is one of her favorite sayings. Grounded means you are attatched. You are not moving. You are cemented. You are rooted, like a tree, and no matter how hard the wind blows, that tree isn’t going anywhere because it’s grounded. So I’m going to blow your mind and give you another exaple of oposition in ballet.

The more grounded you are, the more you can do. This means: the less you move, the more you can move.

Think about it.

You’re in fifth position. And you’re not just hanging out there, your legs are stretched and your heels are pressed into the ground, and your toes are pressed flat against the floor. You can do anything from that position, literally.

You’re in arabesque in plie, and your weight is distributed correctly on your foot, your toes se ure and your hips are lined up. your leg is reaching and elongating back, your arms are reaching and elongating front. You are grounded. You can stay there forever. Or until you decide to releve. Which you can without falling, because you’re grounded.

I do an exercise with my kids where we’re laying on the floor in first position, demi plie, with the feet flexed and the arms out to the side. It is amazing how hard it is for them to hold still and ground their bodies. If their arms are grounded, their feet are moving. If their feet are secure, their head and shoulders are up. They have a hard time grounding their body completely. But the thing is, if they’re grounded in their head and their back, but not their hands and their shoulders, they’re not completely grounded, so they’re really not grounded at all.

How can you learn to be grounded in your dancing, and what does that look like?

Try this combination. From 5th right foot front at the barre

1 - demi plie
2 – slide the outside foot to 1st
3 – stretch straight
4 – slide the front foot to 4th
5 – tendu front
6 – tombe to a lunge
7 – demi plie on the standing leg, squeezing both legs back to fifth,
8 – stretch both legs straight.

Repeat En Croix, with a tombe to the side in second posiiton.

then repeat the whole combination but change count 7 by keeping the back leg straight and  stretching the front leg, and compressing the working leg to fifth with straight knees.

Here’s a video breakdown.

Then try this combo. This is a simple combo that my dance classmate took home to us from UNCSA’s summer ballet intensive quite a few years ago. I use it often. It will show you whether or not you are grounded.

From first, in the center
1 – degage side
2 – degage side
3 – degage side
4 – releve
5-8 – (Repeat with left foot)
1 – degage side
2 – degage side
3 – Releve
4 – degage side
5-8 – (Repeat with left foot)
1 – degage side
2 – Releve
3 – degage side
4 – degage side
5-8 – (Repeat with left foot)
1 – Releve
2 – degage side
3 – degage side
4 – degage side
5-8 – (repeat with left foot)

Here’s a video breakdown.

Advanced students can do the same exercise with jumps instead of releves, adding a demi plie before the count.

Now it’s not all about the feet.

Being grounded in the shoulders means the shoulder knobs are rotated under and pressing down on top of the “bird-cage ribs.” and they’re pushing continually, not just put there once. If they’re constantly pushing, they’re not going anywhere.

Being grounded in the back means the back is enongated and the stomach is pressed against the spine. If your abs are engaged at all times, your core isn’t going to fall away.

Being grounded in the hips means both legs are rotated equally and the pelvis is elongated down. You’re not going to lose your turnout any time soon.

Being grounded in the ankles means the legs are pulled upand the inner ankle bones are at the same level as the outer ankle bones. You’re standing up and you’re not going to fall in on your foot.

Being grounded in the toes means you’re pressing down, not curling them in or under. You have push power.

But it (“it” meaning ballet) only works if you’re grounded EVERYWHERE. If you lose just one of those, you’re done for.

So go down the checklist, or up the body. start with the feet (or the head, whichever you prefer) and make sure you’re secure in your positions, and your body isn’t moving. Then once nothing is moving, you can move with freedom! The less you move, the more you can move.


Side note. I asked one of my students what “grounded” means. She said “it’s where you can’t watch TV.”

I laughed.

The Magic of Oposition

They say opposites attract. But being opposite of something is more powerful than attraction. Opposition is resistance, and resistance is power.

Think about a magnet. You have two strong magnets sitting on top of each other. If the polarities are lined up going the same way they’re going to stick together. But if they’re opposite, one is going to hold the other up in mid-air. Hypothetically.

Think about a well. you have this heavy bucket full of water and you’re pulling the rope down and the bucket goes up.

Think about two people playing tug of war. If the two people are the same in strength and weight, and they’re pulling the same amount, the rope is just going to sit there and be pulled. Nobody is going anywhere.

Opposition is one of the most powerful tools in your ballet tool-belt. How many times have you gone from 1st position up to releve and wobbled, even though you’re plenty strong and balanced? Every wobble is proof that there is not enough opposition. In order to go up, you must go down.

Jumps only work because of opposition. You can’t just pull yourself into the air or levitate (despite what we think when we see a natural jumper). You must push down to go up in the air.

And when you demi plie or grand plie, how do you keep your back or torso from sinking? When you developpe to the side en pointe and balance, how do you keep from collapsing in on your ribs? You pull up through the spine while you go down.

It’s all about opposition.

Turn-out? It’s opposition of the hips.

Spotting? Opposition of the head.

Releves? Opposition of the feet.

Balance? It’s just the right amount of oposition in the right places.

Port de bras? Opposition of the shoulders, wrists, and ribs. Are you tired of floppy dead chicken wing port de bras, watching your students (or you!) throw dead flailing arms all over the place? It’s not about the movement, it’s about resisting the movement. Opposition.

I teach my kids opposition by doing an exercise called “Flying or Falling.” They pump the arms hard and fast and strong (I give them a break to cambre every few seconds, because your arms get really sore really fast. Try it!) Then I make them float in the air like a genie while I pull them up. They have to push down on me in order to get up off the ground. I’m not really lifting them so much as I’m letting them push on me.

Once they tap into the idea of opposition and of “pushing the arms,” we push the arms when we tendu, we push the arms when we releve, we push the arms when we curtsey. They don’t wobble or fall down. Have you ever seen a six-year-old releve in the middle of the floor, without a barre and not wobble? Mine don’t wobble.

This is all part of a special ballet curriculum I use that is based off of Eileen Juric’s Ballet Barre None, and Zena Rommett’s Floor Barre (Eileen’s curriculum is based off what she learned from working with Rommett, and what she learned dancing at Joffrey). It’s devolution of ballet, “breaking it down without having a break-down”, going back to the concept behind the movements. Ballet from the inside out. Specific intentional movement. Teach the concepts first, then applying those concepts to the dance step. Like teaching the number line before drilling addition. Concept then content, and the first concept is opposition.

I’m hoping to write more posts about this in the future, and show you some of the exercises I do with the kids to teach opposition of the hips and ankles. Meanwhile try your flying or falling (do it to Minute Waltz or Flight of the Bumblebee). See what happens to your Pectoralis and your Latimus muscles, and how it affects your balance, strength, and control!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What do you see?

Miss Haley: What do you see in the ocean?

Student, 2 years old: Lollipop.

MH: Really? What color is it?

2yo: Red. it’s for a fish.


MH: What do you see in the sky over there?

2yo: Cookie

MH: what’s over on the other side of the sky?

2yo: Cookie monster!


This kid is hungry today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Things my kids say

When I do creative movement with my little ones, I teach them visualization by asking them a series of questions about imagination. For example, we hold our feet and rock back and forth, and go sailing in the ocean. I ask them, “What do you see in the ocean?” “What does the sky look like today?” “Are the waves high or low?” Sometimes the we do adventures in the garden, or what color bunny rabbit do you want to be. I’ve had some interesting responses to all of these questions.

“What do you see in the ocean/garden/sky?”


“Green what?”



(every week. For a year. Always the answer is green.)


“The music is going to give you a specail signal of when you run out to your spot.”

“Oh, is it like this? ‘ca-caw!’ “



“What do you see in the garden?”

“A Dolphin.”

“In the garden?”


“What’s he doing?”

“Sleeping in the sun.”


“Let’s work on our gallops—“

*child is wearing a fairy tutu, interrupts and covers her face with her hands and says* “’Who-Who’ look I’m an owl.”


“What do you see in the ocean?”




*gives assistant weird look.*

*five minutes later*

“What do you see in the sky?”


*never asks child questions again*


I’ll give you more as I get them!


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