Author Archives: Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin

About Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin is a professional dance company which also offers professional classical ballet training and instruction through the Ballet Austin Academy, which is one of the largest in the U.S. We're committed to providing the highest quality dance instruction to students, and currently the Academy has more than 800 students. Ballet Austin's Butler Center for Dance & Fitness offers classes for all ages and skill levels. And our state-of-the-art Pilates Center is open 7 days a week and gives clients personalized training with one of the top voted instructors in Austin. Dance and fitness workshops are also available, as well as adult workshops and summer kids camps.

Getting to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructors: Jae Hoon Lim

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

An important “tool” of Pilates is the instructor. But choosing a Pilates instructor to train with can feel a little like speed dating—not only do you want a certified and trained professional, you want someone you get along with! We’re making things easy for you with our “Get to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor” blog series, and asked each of our certified Pilates Instructors a few questions.

Meet our newest certified Pilates instructor Jae Hoon!

jae-hoon-lim

  1. What do you do on your free time?
    Drive (be stuck in traffic) to the next job… Just Kidding. When I’m not working I like to take social dance classes at Go Dance or go hiking.
  2. What’s your favorite cocktail?
    Old Fashioned or Manhattan at Small Victory.
  3. What are you currently reading?
    Architecture of Human Living Fascia, Childhood Disrupted, NatGeo magazine.
  4. Do you have any pets?
    I have a 3-year-old cat, named Toupée. She is a white cat with a black mark on her head, thus the name, “Toupée”. :) She teaches me to love unconditionally and to cohabit with another being (requires some patience).
  5. What’s your guilty pleasure?
    Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, Guinness, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

BONUS Question: What’s one interesting fact about yourself?
Just one!? I’ll give you a few.
I am REALLY good at darts. Wanna challenge me? I’ll play you for a pint of Guinness anytime.
I love riding motorcycles. (Sadly, I had to sell my Yamaha when I moved here. :( So, now I am saving $$ to buy Moto Guzzi V7 Special)
I am studying to be trilingual. Parlez-vous français? I’ll teach you Korean if you’ll be my French tutor.

Getting to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructors: Brittany Harpole

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

An important “tool” of Pilates is the instructor. But choosing a Pilates instructor to train with can feel a little like speed dating—not only do you want a certified and trained professional, you want someone you get along with! We’re making things easy for you with our “Get to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor” blog series, and asked each of our certified Pilates Instructors a few questions.

Meet Brittany Harpole! She was introduced to Pilates though her 15 years of classical ballet training. Here’s a little more about her!

brittany-harpole

          1. What do you do on your free time?
            Between working at Ballet Austin, two kids, and owning my own business I don’t get a lot of free time. But my husband and I love to take the kids and animals camping if we get a free weekend.
          2. What are you currently reading?
            Idea fit magazine.
          3. Do you have any pets?
            I have two dogs and 4 chickens and 2 kids if you count those as animals. My dogs are name Tilly and TJ and they love to hunt and run around our property. My 4 chickens are named Snow White, Ariel, Pocahontas and Jasmine. They lay lots of eggs and love attention.
          4. If you had to choose just one, what “health tip” would you want everyone to know?Sustainability is key. Making a lifestyle change that is sustainable is healthier and more beneficial than doing a crash diet or extreme exercise.
          5. What’s your guilty pleasure?
            Homemade Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

BONUS Question: What’s one interesting fact about you that you’d like to share?
I’m not afraid to get dirty or try something new. I might at the Ballet one weekend and the dirt bike track the next.

Creative Ballet and Executive Function

by Joan Wolfe, Creative Ballet Curriculum Director

Is my child over scheduled? Not doing enough? Should we add gymnastics or soccer to their list of activities? It can be confusing, but ultimately we all want to offer our children the most beneficial and balanced extracurricular experience possible.

The latest research in developmental psychology—the study of neural, cognitive, and socio/emotional human development—points to creative movement as sort of one-stop-shop for healthy growth and learning. For over 25 years I’ve been refining my Creative Ballet curriculum. Now, more than ever, research is reinforcing what I’ve known all along; interactive, fun and child-centered movement experiences are essential to a child’s growth.

Specifically, creative movement enhances a child’s executive function, which is their capacity to learn and achieve goals. It directly influences the life skills children need for optimal learning and growth socially, emotionally, and cognitively.

According to MindInTheMaking.org there are several essential life skills every child needs in order to enhance executive function. I’ve outlined these below along with how your child’s dance class experience influences this learning.

 Making Connections and Critical Thinking

Creative Ballet Curriculum Director Joan Wolfe with a group of Creative Ballet students.

Creative Ballet Curriculum Director Joan Wolfe with a group of Creative Ballet students.

Making connections is at the heart of learning—figuring out what’s the same, what’s different and sorting these things into categories. Making unusual connections is at the core of creativity. In a world where people can google for information, it is the people who can see the connections who can go beyond knowing information to using this information well. Critical thinking is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions and actions. – Mind In The Making

To prepare our bodies and minds we begin each class with the BrainDance. I then introduce our “magic word” for the day. The magic word is the concept that ties the class together. It creates meaning and focus. Concepts can include levels, time, shape, line, energy, relationships is space, etc. Students learn about these ideas through seeing and saying the written word, then experiencing it in action. These concepts translate to all areas of their lives so the learning continues outside of the dance room. Creative Ballet helps us think outside the box and make connections.

 Focus and Self Control

Creative Ballet Class

Creative Ballet Class

Children need this skill in order to achieve their goals, especially in a world that is filled with distractions and information overload. It involves paying attention, remembering the rules, thinking flexibly and exercising self control. – Mind In The Making

For children it all comes down to motivation. Children instinctively want to play. It’s no surprise that this is how they learn best. Creative Ballet engages children through fun and challenging dance activities and games. Because of the playfulness of my classes children are naturally motivated to focus, listen and respond with original ideas and movement vocabulary. Creative Ballet is child centered and self directed.

Perspective Taking

Perspective taking involves figuring out what others think and feel, and forms the basis of children understanding their parents’, teachers’ and friends’ intentions. Children who can take others’ perspectives are also much less likely to get involved in conflicts. – Mind In The Making

Every class includes time for observation and reflection. We respectfully watch our friends dance then we take time to offer positive feedback. Creative Ballet develops empathy and understanding.

 Communicating

Communicating is much more than understanding language, speaking, reading and writing—it is the skill of determining what one wants to communicate and realizing how our communications will be understood by others. It is the skill that many teachers feel is most lacking today. – Mind In The Making

Every activity I present requires students to listen carefully and interpret my instructions. I have a saying in class, “We listen, learn and have fun.” We are also aware of each other’s personal space and are often reminded how to respectfully ask for what we need. Creative Ballet enhances our ability to communicate thoughtfully and effectively.

Taking on Challenges

Creative Ballet student showing how he can jump!

Creative Ballet student showing how he can jump!

Life is full of stresses and challenges. Children who are willing to take on challenges (instead of avoiding them or simply coping with them) do better in school and in life. – Mind In The Making

Through out class I use the phrase “Show me how you can…” These are prompts that meet the child on their level. Students also get the benefit of seeing the movement vocabulary as I demonstrate different ideas. Learning by example and being given the opportunity to try and try again creates a self-assured and confident child. Creative Ballet is empowering.

Self-directed Engaged Learning

It is through learning that we can realize our potential. As the world changes, so can we, for as long as we live—as long as we learn. – Mind In The Making

In a nutshell, teacher guided and self-directed learning is my approach to dance education. It involves listening, interpreting, trying new ideas and repetition. It involves novelty, play, thinking outside the box, observing and reflecting. Creative Ballet engages the whole child.

To see the learning in action, please join us for Parent Watch Week during your child’s regular class time, February 22–27.

Getting to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructors: Tyler Guthrie

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

An important “tool” of Pilates is the instructor. But choosing a Pilates instructor to train with can feel a little like speed dating—not only do you want a certified and trained professional, you want someone you get along with! We’re making things easy for you with our “Get to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor” blog series, and asked each of our certified Pilates Instructors a few questions.

Meet Tyler Guthrie! She’s not just one of Ballet Austin’s certified Pilates instructor, she also teaches a few drop-in fitness classes through our Butler Center for Dance & Fitness.

tyler-guthrie

          1. Who’s your favorite Austin musician?
            Tameca Jones
          2. What’s your favorite restaurant?
            Justine’s
          3. Do you have any pets?
            2 rescue cats (Ballie and bama) and one dog Jojo—they are my life
          4. How long have you been in Austin?
            I moved here from California when I was 12 and left to go back to Cali when I was 18. I moved to Dallas, came back, studied nutrition and preventative medicine in New York and came back. Basically I’ve been in and out of town since I was 12.
          5. What do you do on your free time?
            I don’t really have much free time, but when I do, I paddle board, run, or play music. I’m a singer/songwriter.

Be sure to also check out her Instagram account for great health tips and check out the Ballet Austin Pilates group reformer schedule for her next open time slot.

Getting to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructors: Elise Pekarek

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

An important “tool” of Pilates is the instructor. But choosing a Pilates instructor to train with can feel a little like speed dating—not only do you want a certified and trained professional, you want someone you get along with! We’re making things easy for you with our “Get to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor” blog series, and asked each of our certified Pilates Instructors a few questions.

Meet Elise Pekarek who is not only a Ballet Austin certified Pilates Instructor but is also one of our talented Company Dancers!

elise-pekarek

        1. Who’s your favorite Austin musician?
          I always enjoy going to see my friend and fellow company dancer Jordan Moser perform with his band.
        2. What’s your favorite restaurant?
          Uchi!
        3. What are you currently reading?
          I recently finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’m looking for something new!
        4. Do you have any pets?
          Two Boston Terriers, Nitro and Lady.

          Nitro

          Nitro

          Lady

          Lady

        5. What do you do on your free time?
          In my free time, I try to do Pilates for myself. I also enjoy going to movies and trying new restaurants.

BONUS Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?
I LOVE Sandy’s cheeseburgers and fries, cheesecake, beer, and Home Slice pizza.

 

Getting to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructors: Felicia McBride

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

An important “tool” of Pilates is the instructor. But choosing a Pilates instructor to train with can feel a little like speed dating—not only do you want a certified and trained professional, you want someone you get along with! So we’re going to make things easy for you with our “Get to Know Your Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor” blog series, and ask each of our certified Pilates Instructors a few questions. First up: Felicia McBride!

Certified Pilates Instructor Felicia McBride

Certified Pilates Instructor Felicia McBride

  1. Who’s your favorite Austin musician?
    My favorite Austin musician would have to be a drummer by the name of Brandon Guerra. He plays at The Elephant Room, The Brass House, The Gatsby, and Lambert’s. Although, you could say I’m biased since I’m engaged to him 
  2. What’s your favorite restaurant?
    I’d have to say my favorite restaurant right now is Ramen Tatsuya. I love having that big bowl of noodles right in front of me to devour!
  3. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
    I love riding my bike on Townlake and going to Barton Springs in the summer.
  4. What do you do on your free time?
    In my free time I am either dancing, cooking, or working on a 1000 piece puzzle.

  5. What’s one interesting fact about you?
    One interesting thing about me is that I have one extra rib on the left side of my neck!

felicia

6 Things You Should Know about the Director’s Choice Choreographers

By Pei-San Brown,  Community Education Director

Director’s Choice 2016 is fast approaching and Artistic Director Stephen Mills is excited to introduce two extraordinary choreographic talents to local audiences, while presenting two of his favorite works. One of the most interesting aspects of Director’s Choice is the breadth of movement ideas and music used for the different pieces. Before you join us Valentine’s Day weekend, here are the top 6 things you need to know about our presenting choreographers.

1. Pontus Lidberg, the choreographer

Pontus Lidberg holds an MFA in Contemporary Performative Arts from the University of Gothenburg / Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts. He trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, and after graduating, he danced with The Royal Swedish Ballet, The Norwegian National Ballet, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and The Göteborg Ballet.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

2. Pontus Lidberg, the filmmaker

Lidberg’s most recent dance film, Labyrinth Within (2011)—featuring former New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan, and a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang—received the Court Métrange du Jury prize at the Court-Métrange Film Festival in Rennes, France (2011) and won Best Picture at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York (2012).

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

3. Pam Tanowitz, the Guggenheim Fellow

Pam Tanowitz holds an MFA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was mentored by former Merce Cunningham principal dancer Viola Farber-Slayton. She received a 2009 Bessie Award for Be in the Gray With Me, was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011, and was a 2013/14 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

4. Pam Tanowitz, the critic’s favorite

Pam is lauded by dance critics everywhere. Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times wrote in February 2014, “Some of the dance steps, phrases and constructions by the choreographer Pam Tanowitz are among the finest being made anywhere today. They feature memorable footwork, strikingly elegant and witty combinations of lower- and upper-body movement, and complex, subtle, fascinating uses of stage space. And yet she’s an eccentric… Much of her dance vocabulary is taken from ballet and from Merce Cunningham technique, both of which she employs in ways that should often impress devotees of either genre.”

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz's Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz’s Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

5. Stephen Mills, the musician-turned-dancer

Stephen Mills is a classically-trained musician who studied piano and composition at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. He took his first dance class at the age of 18, and went on to dance with The Harkness Ballet and The American Dance Machine in New York.

He revealed in a 2013 interview with ATX Man, “When I was 8, I had encephalitis, and I was in a brief coma. The fact that I was able to walk in the end was miraculous. So sports were not part of my life. When I went to college and I learned that I could use my body like this, it was a revelation… The second I stepped into the studio, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

6. Stephen Mills, the award-winning dance maker

Stephen began his career at Ballet Austin as a dancer. He later became Resident Choreographer, and then eventually Artistic Director of the company. He was the choreographer chosen to represent the United States through his work, Ashes, at Les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris (1998). His ballet, One / the body’s grace, was awarded the Steinberg Award, the top honor at Le Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur International Choreographic Competition. One of Stephen’s crowning achievements is the ballet Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, which in 2006 was awarded the Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award by the Anti-Defamation League.

Ballet Austin's Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Ballet Austin’s Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Don’t miss your chance to see these extraordinary artists at their best for Director’s Choice!

New Year, New Work: Working With Pontus Lidberg

By Oliver Greene-Cramer, Company Dancer

Let me start by saying Happy New Year! With the first month of 2016 drawing to a close, we are putting together the final touches on Director’s Choice.

We are about three weeks out from the performance and have just finished learning all of the choreography for the final two ballets—there are four total dance works being performed during Director’s Choice. With this blog post, however, I’ll be looking back at the process and choreography of Pontus Lidberg’s Stream. Pontus first came to set his work on us in October, just before Ballet Austin’s tour to West Palm Beach, and will return to Austin two weeks before Director’s Choice.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

An internationally acclaimed choreographer and filmmaker, Pontus is originally from Sweden but is currently based in New York City. Given his body of work with companies such as the Swedish Royal Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet, we were extremely excited to learn that we would be working with him.

Stream was originally choreographed on Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2013 so the process was one of resetting existing movement on our company dancers. The ballet is set to an original score by composer Ryan Francis. With gorgeous swells and ethereal melodies the music helps to guide the pulses within the movement.

Though Stream had already been choreographed, Pontus was interested in altering and modifying certain aspects so that we, as dancers, felt more natural in the movement. Therefore, instead of having us mimic a video, he took time to encourage individuality in fulfilling the steps.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

From the first day in the studio Pontus’ aesthetic and intention was clear. Though very intricate in terms of partnering and spatial patterns, the flowing movement demands an organic and effortless mindset. Much of the choreography is connected by off balance steps or even an intentional fall. While the piece is full of floor work and complex partnering, Pontus’ desire is that everything flows naturally while working in the context of the movement vocabulary. Nothing looks forced or random; everything seamlessly connects to the next step. Though his choreography is firmly rooted in classical line, Pontus wants more than just technical cleanliness in a dancer. The choreography demands an expressiveness from the dancers that requires precision without severity.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Next week Pontus returns to continue coaching Stream in the weeks leading up to the Valentine’s Day Weekend performances. As with all of the other pieces in Director’s Choice, we look forward to sharing Pontus’ beautiful work with Austin.

resolutions

Resolutions: Commitment vs. Interest

It’s the time of year when optimism strikes anew and we think to ourselves, “My New Year’s resolutions will totally work out this time!” Our intentions are good, right? We want to make meaningful changes in our life and January 1st seems to make the most sense as the place to start with all the promises and possibilities a new year brings. Besides, everyone else is doing it.

So we get inspired, energized, and ready to drop the bad habits and build some good ones. There are about 50+ apps out there to help you achieve any resolution you come up with. But the bigger question is whether you are committed or just interested?

People committed to fitness during Get Fit, our annual day of free classes.

People committed to fitness during Ballet Austin’s Get Fit event: our annual day of free classes.

Interest vs. Commitment

It’s easy to be interested in a lot of things. But how do we move beyond interest? To begin with, make sure you understand the difference between interest and commitment.

  • Interest reads an article or blog post; commitment applies that post to each day.
  • Interest works on a new hobby, improving yourself, or eating healthier when it is convenient, easy, or fun; commitment is a priority, is being proactive and looking for ways to make it work!
  • Interest procrastinates; commitment focuses on what’s important today and does it.
  • Interest makes excuses; commitment constantly looks for new ways and solutions, and won’t take “no” for an answer.

Now ask yourself: Are you committed? Or just interested?

Life change and growth requires more than mere interest. It requires a decision, determination, and ongoing dedication. It is your promise to yourself that you will not give up on you! So are you ready to go all out? Are you ready to fully commit yourself to achieving what you have resolved for 2016?

Check your Mindset

PILATES-DETAIL-2

Get on the wagon… or Pilates reformer. Don’t let new activities intimidate you!

Success, in any aspect of life, starts with your mindset. You must make the decision at your core to hold nothing back. Take a good look at your life and decide that nothing is going to stand in your way of achieving something new or changing a habit in your life. If you’re going to commit yourself to your resolution, it’s got to be something that you truly value; not what others think you should do. Your state of mind at the beginning of this journey is key.

Refine and Define Your Goals

I’’s hard to commit yourself to something if your finish line is a nebulous point in the distance. Plenty of resolutions fail because it can be overwhelming to think about doing something for the rest of your life, even the rest of a year.

Instead of “be healthy in 2016”, be specific about what your goals are and what you want the ultimate outcome to be. Determine what you want, how to get there, and how long you plan on dedicating to reach your destination. Consider some of the unhealthy habits you have now, and think about which of those you may want to change. Or is there something you would like to learn, or accomplish? Be specific.

Daily Resolve

Be positive in your goals.

Be positive and commit to your goals daily.

Regrettably, having a clearly defined end-goal isn’t enough to keep you going. Initial enthusiasm slowly begins to fade as time presses on. In fact, only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

Once you know how you want to change/learn/grow, begin to put steps together to get there. Daily resolve. Daily commit. At the beginning of each week, write down your top goals for the next 7 days. At the beginning of each day remind yourself what has to happen on that day, and before you go to bed each night, check to see you’ve completed that task. Your mind needs daily reminders of your goals.

The key to staying motivated is finding both enjoyment and achievement along the way. When it’s fun,  we feel we have conquered something; when there is a reward, we gain the edge.

Gather Supporters

Having fun is key! Plenty of like-minded people during Get Fit 2016 event.

Having fun is key! Plenty of like-minded people during Get Fit 2016 event.

Tell others what you are doing. Tell them to ask you about it and encourage you! Surround yourself with like-minded people; people who support what you are striving for and people who are also heading in the same direction. You will meet them at the running trail, the gym, and in a dance class.

And don’t forget to record your progress with photos, journaling, social media, or anything else that gives you motivation and a sense of progress. Celebrate the milestones.

Go easy on yourself

Expect to revert to your old habits from time to time, but don’t allow that to be a deterrent to reaching your end-goal. There are occasional detours and hazards of the road. Treat these as temporary setbacks, rather than failures or a reason to give up completely. So eat that cookie or enjoy a lazy afternoon, and then get back on track! After all, your committed, not just interested.

new-year

Looking Forward To 2016

By Christi Cuellar Lotz, Director of Development

You’ve made our YEAR! And by “our”, I mean the city of Austin.

Undoubtedly, you have received multiple emails from various non-profits asking for your support in 2015, and Ballet Austin has also done our share of asking. As we start a new year, I’d like to take the opportunity to say Thank You. Whether you are supporting Ballet Austin, or any other Austin non-profit organization, Thank You.

You help make Austin the incredible city it is, and you are the reason for our amazing growth and development. These are exciting times in our wonderful city, and the fabric of this town is made up of the threads of those who go above and beyond to give and make it a better place.

Whether you’ve volunteered for The Nutcracker School Shows, or helped serve meals in a soup kitchen, or purchased tickets to one of the city’s many arts productions helping keep the performing arts alive in Austin, or if you simply decided to write a check in 2015 to an organization you support and trust, Thank You.

And, if, indeed, you have included Ballet Austin in your 2015 giving, we could not be more thankful for you! With your support, we look forward to making 2016 just as special and magical as 2015, THANK YOU!

And here is just one of the many reasons we are thankful for YOU. Cheers to a fantastic 2016!