Manon/Kenneth MacMillan – Case Study

L’histoire de Manon, generally referred to as Manon, is a ballet choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan to music by Jules Massenet and based on the 1731 novel Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost. The ballet was first performed by The Royal Ballet in London in 1974 with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell in the leading roles. It continues to be performed and recognised internationally.

Below is a YouTube link with Aurelie Dupont’s final performance as an etoile of the Paris Opera

To illustrate the particular choreographic style and its impact upon the genre of ballet, this case study will apply frameworks such as Rudolf Laban’s Effort Factors of space and weight for the final Pas de Deux in comparison to the Wedding Pas de Deux from Sleeping Beauty(1890) by Marius Petipa (1818-1910). Laban’s sphere of space around the body is called kinesphere theory and will be used to underpin the discussion (Brooks 32). In a broad sense, the concept of style relates to the choreographer’s choices in relation of movement vocabulary and the theme of the particular ballet, for this instance within the genre of ballet (Rowell 108). Placed in the genre of modern ballet MacMillan’s choreographic style includes taking basic classical steps and reshaping them to look almost natural (Wright 20). Key features such as shifts of weight, use of en dedans, utilising near-reach and outer-reach space of Kinesphere with the upper body as well as extended legs, all determine a realistic approach to the modern choreography rather than earlier classical era ballets where the choreography relied on imaginary fairy-tale stories with uplifted centre of gravity, en dehors steps and polished movements such as seen in Sleeping Beauty (Cohen, Bremser 891).

Early modern ballet up to 1980s was considered to be concerned with emotion and true expressiveness that were conveyed through storyline and movement (Walker 34). Modern ballet is rooted in classical ballet having similarities to the classical vocabulary steps such as arabesques and pas de bourée, however infused with factors connected to modern dance such as contrast in weight, sharpness and use of turned in feet or en dedans. Furthermore, the en dedans, the vulnerability in movements, particularly the use of upper body in the torso, the near-reach space using the arms and hands and play with the use of dynamics are used to display intense feelings within the dramatic theme chosen (Cohen 130). In this sense MacMillan “reinvented the narrative ballet as psychological drama “and “forged his own distinctive vocabulary of movement expanding the conventions of ballet to encompass realistic, even grotesque physical reactions” (Parry 6). Some of the well-known narrative ballets include Manon, Romeo and Juliet (1964) and Mayerling (1978) (Parry 8).

The fused elements, classical and more modern steps, of Manon’s choreography bring expressiveness to the dramatic story which is based on Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost, written in 1731. It was a romantic drama that felt present for the era in which MacMillan choreographed. Manon is a female character prostituted by her brother, conflicted between a life of true love next to DeGrieux or luxury and wealth with Monsieur G.M. The three act ballet displays the exploration of the woman’s inner psyche in relation to social pressures and discovery of self -sexuality, emotions and needs. The end of the ballet which consists of couple’s final Pas De Deux is a key moment of tragedy where Manon gives up fighting and gives into love and final death (Bremser 893).

MacMillan’s journey as a choreographer began by creating works on themes such as symbolism and fantasy. Being inspired by post-war French choreographers MacMillan’s particular choreographic style and interest came with the appearance of the““new wave” of young British playwrights such as John Osbourne, Harold Pinter, Arnold Wesker and John Arden, and this inspired him to create a ballet that dealt with real flesh-and-blood characters in a world of harsh reality” (Bremser 892, Parry 6).  Moreover, the interest in the psyche came as a response to the post-war theatre and dance such as Roland Petit’s musicals of existential dramas (Crisp).  Throughout the years the choreographic style was more evident after the 1960s Cultural Revolution of which impact served as an influence for MacMillan’s modern ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling and Manon. This period was emphasizing unusual approaches and freedom to express oneself by breaking and extending boundaries therefore fading the distinction “between art and life” as there were “limits tested in many sectors of society whether artistically, socially, or politically” (Potaznik 2). People expressed themselves through anti-war manifests, sex, drugs, rock and roll and experimentalism (Baumgartner; Miles; Savage; Ramzy). This shift of perception is clear in MacMillan’s Manon through the choice of tragic storyline more so intertwined with present times. For this aspect, MacMillan’s interest in realism was brought into choreography and offered the audience a new experience in viewing ballet.There was a concern to “manifest a certain area of feeling… for which to discover a dramatic situation or character that will enclose the idea” (Walker 36).

Looking beyond the distinction in story-line between Sleeping Beauty and Manon, the final pas de deux in each of them displays the female character in contrast to the other. In terms of weight the distinction relies in the full use of it in Manon as the final pas de deux encompasses emotion and despair. According to Laban “effort is the common denominator for the various stirrings of the body and mind which become observable in activity “. Therefore in this case the pressure or weight relates to emotion and is observable through the choice of resistance or giving in to gravity’s force. The result of the variation in these two opposing forces creates a vital contrast that gives sense to the dance (Moore, Yamamoto 134). Moreover, by fluctuating strong with light weight and creating the contrast in decreasing and increasing pressure, MacMillan transfers and connects the character’s inner feelings into movement.  For example in the final pas de deux Manon is using a lot of her passive weight. Almost all the steps use a low centre of gravity and look to be heavy and connected to the ground. In many instances Manon is stepping (2:00, 2:43), turning (0:52, 2:26) or falling out of balance (1:10, 3:02) and into DeGrieux’s arms. This shows not only her trust in him but more so the sense of giving up, not valuing her life  as she is sick and slowly reaching the end. Within the ballet and moreover in the final Pas de Peux this characterization through movements is shown through Manon’s various dragged steps such as thePas de Beurée or step towards De Grieux in which her transfer of weight is passive and determines off balance weight (0:09) .The strong and almost dead weight with which Manon is dragging her back leg towards the front one in order to transfer the now passive weight reflects feelings of giving up and the tragic story-line in which this serves as anticipation of her ultimate death.

In contrast, within the classical ballet Sleeping Beauty, Aurora’s weight is permanently active. There is evidence of strong active weight in stepping into a 90 degree arabesque supported by the partner.Moreover, as soon as the partner releases his hand from holding Aurora, there is a moment of strong independent balance demonstrating how Aurora is fully in charge of her weight (0:38). This connects to the fairy tale story line and in terms of emotion, there is love and happiness considering the wedding between the characters, however no inner deeper emotions of Aurora’s character are shown. There is a sense of uplift, reaching higher and higher towards the far kinesphere however only using the arms and legs. In this sense of looking at personal space, in Manon all classical routes of reaching towards far reach space are extended. The ballerina itself creates lines and shapes with her whole body in reaching outwards. At times her hands are also using close reach space as she is touching her face, or her chest before reaching outwards (2:11 to 2:14) with hands. To create a full extension with her body the legs extend as well in almost similar Grand Jeté pose however inverted as her body is supported by DeGrieux’s back and both character’s gaze reach towards the ground (2:15).

In terms of more contrast in weight as well as looking at the evolution from the earlier classical era, the fish pose present in both pas de deux’s represents the shift in how ballet vocabulary is viewed. This relies in the execution of the lift that therefore creates the distinctive real element of style illustrating MacMillan’s modern ballet perspective with foundations in classical style.These were taken, broken and brought into conveying the realism of story and expressiveness in Manon. In the minute 2:34 Aurora prepares herself, runs using en dehors or turned out legs, and elegantly reaches towards her partner to turn en dedanstowards the Prince and finish in the fish posewhile reaching outwards and keeping her chest and head lifted. Both Aurora and the Prince are looking beyond their fingers. As this pose comes after a spin, it almost seems effortless and Aurora is still holding herself, gracefully in control of the weight.

For Manon however, the same pose almost looks dead, including passive weight and no sense of control over the body’s limbs. There is a strong sense of visual effect that brings the element of realism of the story as well as inner feelings into the pose. Both partners are weak, Manon has lost control and seems to give in more into her feelings therefore losing sense of her body. DeGrieux continuously catches, drags and keeps Manon in place while connecting his body with hers to show empathy, the connection of love and the feeling of not giving up on it. The fishpose present at the end of the Pas de Deux represents how a movement can change when representing various different emotions specific to narrative modern ballet. Manon’s reach towards the ground with her head and barely holding into DeGrieux demonstrates full loss of weight aswell as perception over space. Within the kinesphere, her own safety in moving and her consciousness is falling towards the ground inevitably as her final breaths approach.

Dancers describe MacMillan’s choreographic style with “richly textured realism and his raw-edged characterisation” to have not been found in any other choreographer and to have “shaped them profoundly as artists”. Soon there was an understanding of his particular style of leaving the specific ballet technique away and instead incorporate more naturalism. MacMillan sought to bring the kind of revolution that he has experienced previously into his ballets. The choreographer pushed the limits of physical and emotional boundaries in an exploration of expressiveness and realism. Similarly to Manon, MacMillan’s modern ballet characters with complex personalities and inner psyche determine the dancers to have more freedom of exploring their own feelings and bodies into movement (Mackrell).

In conclusion, through the key features presented such as use of weight and space as well as through comparing MacMillan’s choreographic style for modern ballet with the earlier era of classical vocabulary such as Sleeping Beauty it is evident how the choreographer impacted the genre of ballet.

Article wrote by Rebecca Olarescu – RAD student

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The point of view of the Ballet Department employees regarding recent events.

Due to the events which occurred in the last weeks at Bucharest National Opera House, the Ballet Department employees issue this press release to express a point of view. We challenge the affirmations of Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș, according to whom we, the employees of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House, are “retrograde” and not open to newness. We would like to bring to his attention that shows from important associations, such as George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián, have been performed on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House for many years. Furthermore, many international dancers performed along the dancers of the Bucharest National Opera House, while countless internationally recognized artists and choreographers came to work with us, among whom we name Edward Clug, Paul Boss, Vasily Medvedev, Laura Graham, Frederic Olivieri and Suki Schorer. We express our openness to collaborate with any ballet personality, as long as they observe the Romanian laws and respect the Romanian culture and us, as artists.

Even this aspect is important, the purpose of our protest is not the pay packet, as it has been stated in the press, but the problems we faced in the period when Mr. Johan Kobborg was head of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House. In the last weeks, Ms. Alina Cojocaru gave statements to the press and on TV, statements which damaged the image of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House, its history and artistic heritage. We find unsubstantiated and offensive the statement according to which the working environment before Mr. Johan Kobborg arrival was one of terror, this contradicting the statements issued by Ms. Alina Cojocaru and Mr. Johan Kobborg during the period when they both danced as guests in our institution, that the working environment and the artistic and professional levels met the highest standards.

Hereinafter we present the most important problems the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House had to face since the investiture without public competition of Mr. Johan Kobborg in the effective management of this structure in our institution:

The appropriation and use by Mr. Johan Kobborg of the position of Artistic Director of the Ballet Department, in total contradiction to the institution’s grading structure. This situation brought the misinformation of the Ballet Department members about the real status of the management staff. Mr. Johan Kobborg took on and adopted all decisions inside the Department, even if in reality his agreement strictly stipulated he was employed only as a ballet dancer and managing adviser.

Removing several performances and creations from the season program (Sleeping Beauty, Anna Karenina, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Baiadera, Cinderella, Femei(Donne), shows which were signed by well-known Romanian choreographers (Alexa Mezincescu, Ioan Tugearu, Mihai Babușka, Gheorghe Iancu) and which had been in the repertoire of the Bucharest National Opera House for an indefinite period, and changing them with shows with a limited number of stage plays, despite the fact that until Mr. Kobborg’s arrival the shows were performed in parallel. Hence, the Bucharest National Opera House, which was mainly a repertoire institute, was slowly turned into a project theatre.

Employing ballet dancers at Mr. Kobborg’s exclusive discretion, without any preview by a Specialty Committee.

Constantly supporting and demonstrating the discrimination of the ballet dancers in terms of their salaries for the same type of rendered services, which represents a severe breach of Romanian and EU legislation.

Professional discrimination among the artists regarding casting, rehearsals, leave days, granting positions and other facilities. An example in this sense is the preferential treatment offered to a ballerina who is publicly defending Mr. Kobborg, the only member of the ballet of the Bucharest National Opera House who had the opportunity to dance with internationally recognized ballet dancers especially invited for her debuts. We would like to emphasize that not one established prima ballerina from our institution had this privilege under Mr. Kobborg’s administration.

Stipulating the mandatory use of the English language during rehearsals and causing conflicts which led to the resignation of important Romanian ballet masters and valuable first soloists from our Department.

Exercising constant psychological pressure on the ballet dancers, controlling their social media activities through intimidation, thus directly resulting in the deterioration of the working environment and of the employees’ emotional balance.

Dividing the ballet dancers’ collective in two sections, the “Ballet” Department and the “Entertainment Ballet” Department, thus breaching yet again the grading structure of the Bucharest National Opera House. The ballet dancers who were abusively transferred to the “Entertainment” Department were forced to study in one auditorium, while their access to other auditoriums, where Romanian and foreign masters were giving lessons, was forbidden. Mr. Kobborg and Mrs. Florica Stănescu, head of the department at that time, threatened to apply pay cuts if these rules were violated.

Favoring dancers brought in by Mr. Kobborg, even to the detriment of the other ballet dancers in the Department at the time Mr. Kobborg was invested as “Artistic Director”. We will present only two cases, out of several, when two ballet dancers, one Italian, the other Swiss, submitted a written statement last year to the Ministry of Culture regarding a situation which they found abusive. Their contracts were not extended, even if they had been performing in this institution for approximately three years, despite the fact that they made prior inquiries regarding this matter and that they were assured that their collaboration will continue in the following season. Mr. Kobborg reasoned that the contracts were not extended because he was going to bring in other ballet dancers, whom he knew they would pass the hiring auditions before they even came in for the audition.

Casting students from private ballet studios in the show Le Corsaire, instead of students from the Floria Capsali Choreography High School, although the former had performed the respective choreography since the show premiere. Through these actions, Mr. Kobborg tried to alienate the students of the Bucharest National Opera House from the artistic act.

The inefficient elaboration of the work schedule by not granting sufficient rehearsal time for preparing the spectacles, both for the ensemble and vocalists, thus compromising the quality of their evolution and exposing the ballet dancers to possible injuries.

Removing Birbanto’s variation from act I of Le Corsaire for one show, because one dancer had a physical unavailability and another was not prepared.

Changing the variation of the Forest Fairy from act II of the Don Quijote ballet without the choreographer’s approval, because the ballerina could not perform the technical elements presented in the variation.

Changing the rehearsal schedule from one hour to another or to inappropriate hours, sometimes even at night, not observing the minimum period of 48 hours for informing the artists of the schedule change, as well as exceeding the legal work program without any additional remuneration.

We believe that the expression “Before us you were nothing”, statement made by a foreign ballet dancer of the Ballet Department, represents nothing else but the lack of respect with which the artists of the Bucharest National Opera House are treated and may represent an act identical with our labelling in countless articles released in the national and international press.

We want to assure you that Mr. Kobborg did not revolutionize the Romanian ballet, but merely continued on the path of his predecessors. The stage of the Bucharest National Opera House had hosted, is hosting and always will host international guests and shows, regardless of the management.

Here are several examples:

The 1980 ballet premiere of La Fille mal gardée, with choreographer Alexa Mezincescu, a spectacle Mr. Kobborg called “a national premiere” on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House.

Swan Lake by Oleg Danovski, Baiadera by Valery Kovtun, Romeo and Juliet by luri Papko, Serenade by George Balanchine, Falling Angels by Jiří Kylián, Tango.Radio and Juliet by Edward Clug, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Marc Bogaerts, Le Corsaire by Vasily Medvedev, Giselle by Jaroslav Slavicky, Coppelia by Oleg Danovski, Notre Dame de Paris by loan Tugearu, Peer Gynt by Mihaela Atanasiu, Simfonia Patetica and Francesca da Rimini, both by Olivier Patey.

Great internationally recognized ballet dancers performed on the stage of the Bucharest National Opera House, among whom we name Andrian Fadeev, Andrey Batalov, Anastasia Kolegova, Svetlana Lunkina, Artem Spilevsky, Miki Hamanaka, Michelle Weils, Iana Salenko, Dinu Tamazlacaru, Letizia Giuliani, Amilcar Moret, Ygone de Iongh and Artur Shesterikov.

Internationally recognized masters came to work with the dancers of the Bucharest National Opera House, among whom we name Paul Boss, Laura Graham, Edward Clug, Emanuela Tagliavia, Gheorghe Iancu, Frederic Olivieri, Loretta Alexandrescu, Gigi Caciuleanu, Suki Schorer, Laura Delfini, Fabio Sartorelli, Francesca Pedroni, Delia Duccoli and Olivier Pattey.

In the Ballet Department were brought Omar de Bartolomeo, specialist physician in the physical recovery of dancers, and Pierre de Hillerin, administrator of the National Centre for Athletic Research.

The collaboration with the ballet shoes company Gaynor Minden USA started in 2004.

The tour organized in 2008 by RCI, the Romanian Cultural Institute in Madrid, for Romania’s National Day, with the spectacle Giselle, with Mr. Johan Kobborg and Ms. Alina Cojocaru as special guests.

The ballet of the Bucharest National Opera House performed countless tours in France, Germany, China, Italy, Luxembourg, England and the Netherlands.

We state that Mr. Kobbog disposed of colossal amounts of money to bring in new titles, money which even the most clueless manager could have used to bring in established masters and choreographers.

Apart from the aforementioned aspects, we also believe that the return of Mr. Kobborg as head of the Ballet Department of the Bucharest National Opera House is displeasing to the entire artist collective because his behavior in the last few weeks annihilated any idea of mutual respect.

We have attached the list of the 51 signatories of this press release.

We also attach the Bucharest Opera House Ballet Repertoire before Mr. Kobborg.


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Kiev State Ballet School – Kibyusa Alice Forcos

12496169_1061502913910748_7654064510759289092_oI spent 4 years studying ballet in Romania and another one in Budapest and then I went to Kiev State Choreographic College, the school where ENB’s Romanian prima ballerina Alina Cojocaru learned how to dance, impress and act on stage. Following a DVD audition, on 17th of July (which is exactly after my birthday) I got the good news: I was going to study in Kiev and follow on the steps of one of my favorite ballerina. I was really excited and I couldn’t wait to meet the teachers and the students, I was going to start a new life with new people, in a new country and a new language much more difficult than Hungarian.
Describe a day in your life – from waking up to going to sleep
On 22nd of October I started my experience among Ukrainians and Russians. I lived in a campus together with Russian students. There was also a kindergarden there, where little girls were taught first ballet steps. I got along well with their traditional food, which is very similar to ours. There was a big distance from campus to school, but they had a school bus for all the students living in the campus.
The school is situated in the center of Kiev, next to the Opera House and to a lot of museums and institutions, but you can see the troubled history of the country on their buildings. The conflicts in Kiev left visible marks on the walls.
School proved to be a warm and welcome place.I arrived on a Thursday and I started my ballet lessons and folk dance the next day. For the first week my program started at 12:30 with Russian language till 1:30 and at 14:15 ballet classes.Tuesday and Thursday we had duet lessons, Pilates on Monday and folk on Friday. Compared to Hungary, where Saturday our ballet class started at 8 and finished at 9:25, in Kiev the schedule started at 10 with modern dance till 11:30, had a very long break till 14:30 when we started again ballet lessons till 16:00. On my first modern class in Kiev, I was surprised to find out that my teacher knew Romanian. That was easier for me and that was the only class I really enjoyed, obviously after ballet and Pas De Deux. But this happened only the first 2 weeks. After that, my schedule became exhausting, from 9 o’clock till 18 o’clock I was in school learning Russian and working on my classes.
How did you get along in the new school? How was it different from the previous school?
I can’t say that I got along in my new school very smoothly, as most of the students and teachers didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Russian. I was always asked why didn’t I speak Russian and I was like, ,,sorry I don’t know how to say it in Russian”.
I think the differences between the Russian school and the Hungarian school were the technique and the classes. Although they teach Vaganova in Budapest, there were a lot of differences to the method used in Kiev. Plus in Budapest we had Pilates, stretching and repertoire, here we didn’t have any of these, but the ballet classes extended from 2 hours per day to 4 hours per day. A very big difference from the other ballet schools is graduation diploma as a Junior Specialist state standard for three qualifications: Ballet dancer; Dance teacher primary specialized art schools and Director for amateur choreographic collective. Beginning with the second year, there are more disciplines to study: history of theater, history of music, drama, history of costume and others. If I want to continue my studies, I can go to the Institute to get a Bachelor’s Degree. The College  includes: the kindergarten , the school and Young Ballet of Kiev.
Which was your biggest challenge so far?
I think my biggest challenge was the language barrier. I must admit that reading in Russian was one thing but trying to speak was another one. It was so difficult, that I continued to talk in English.
Another challenge was to leave my family, friends and country and to go to study among foreigners with no relatives there and no one to help me.
Yet another one: the director decided that I should learn Swan Lake choreography in 1 week and dance in a small tour in Ukraine but I said no to this. After two weeks he told me that I still have to learn the choreography and dance at Ukrainian Conservatory in front of very important people. It was really hard for me because I was the youngest girl, all the other girls were 17 to 19, but I did it and I felt wonderful. Dancing in Swan Lake is not easy. I think it has never been and never will be. Preparation includes is a lot of work and steps, you have to keep the synchronize with the assemble, music and the rest of the cast. And there is the expression, you have to tell the story and create the wonderful feeling of the story. I also danced in the Christmas show at National Opera of Ukraine, I danced in a short part of Nutcracker, Flower Waltz, pas de deux from 3rd act, I danced as first snowflake, also modern dance ,,Cleopatra” and ,,Prologue” choreography by Alla Rubina, Alina Cojocaru’s teacher from Kiev. It was a great honor to meet Mrs. Rubina and also to dance on the same stage where other worldwide famous ballerinas such as Iana Salenko and Svetlana Zackharova did.
A big “thank you” to all the teachers from Vienna – specially to Mrs.Evelyn Teri who made me realize that the ballet is not just about the technique, is joy, a dream that I have to go all the way – and to all the teachers in Budapest, Kiev and Romania, who trusted and encouraged me to continue ballet even in the hardest moments. I appreciate everyone a lot and I hope that one day you will be very proud of me!

I now invite you to watch an excerpt from “Cleopatra”

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Mihai Claudiu Costache 17 years – Ballettschule Theater Basel, part 2

12583693_10207159874668717_1376283679_nPhoto: “Nutcracker” – Ballettschule Theater Basel

How did you get along in the new school? How was it different from the previous school?
My first school year in Basel was very confusing and somehow difficult because the Swiss school has a different schedule and some extra study objects compared to Romania; for example in the tenth grade, students at “Floria Capsali” High School of Choreography do not study pas-de deux, Yoga, Pilates, anatomy and other theoretical objects related to the professional and personal life of a dancer.
All these study objects helped me a lot and gave me more self-confidence, but these sudden changes were not easy.
Second year in Basel also came with other changes!
First, my ballet teacher changed. Last year, I had a Russian teacher; therefore style and technique were Russian. That was easy for me, since I learnt Vaganova in my Romanian school.
I practiced also American style, since Mrs. Bennett, our Director, trained at ABT School, in New York. For 2 years in a row, I had the honour of taking 2 weeks studies with Mrs. Cynthia Harvey, Artistic Director of ABT. I could have never imagined I would have such a ballet teacher. Every time at studies I felt every exercise and every correction she gave imprinted in my body. Everyone knows her as the prima-ballerina of ABT, but not everyone was so lucky as us, the students of Ballettshule Theater Basel, to see her teaching. From my point of view, Mrs. Harvey had a very specific teaching style, combining the exercises. she came everyday with new ideas, new combinations and each of the combination seemed to be part of a famous ballet! I tried to get advantage on every class with her. Thank you Mrs. Cynthia Harvey!
In the second year, a French teacher came to our class. I have to admit it was tough for me in the beginning to get used to this new technique, to get adapted and to start using it every day.
Now, with my French teacher, I have not only learnt a new style, but also discovered a new technique that suits me better and I that I now prefer. Mr.Sebastien Riou and Mrs. Sandrine Cassini , also French, helped me realize that the French style is more freely, the movements are larger and broader, and the arms are more expressive.
Of course, the base is the same in all 3 styles, just some details are different.
I am trying to get a little bit (or more) from each of my teachers, steal a secret and then try it on my body. Ever since I left home, I have learnt a lot. People in Romania say to me that things are much better in Western Europe. I think there are, like everywhere else, advantages and disadvantages. Here, conditions are better, people invest in art, ballet is appreciated and there is a higher standard of life.
However, I wish I would come back to Romania, stay with my family and dance with Bucharest National Opera. I like their new ballet performances and I would like to be part of it.

Describe a day in your life – from waking up to going to sleep
During the year, our daily schedule usually begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends around 7 p.m. When we prepare for performances, such as before the winter holiday or before the summer vacation (we have 2 performances a year), we start rehearsing the roles with a month and a half before. Then, two or three weeks before, we have full-length rehearsals almost every day in the classroom. In the last week, depending on the theatre’s schedule, we have one, two or three full-length rehearsals on the theatre’s stage.
I remember, the last week before the summer show premiere, I was talking one night with my roommate. Before going to bed I asked him what day of the week was it, because we had the same schedule every day that week: waking up at 6:15 a.m., going to the theatre, classical studies from 8:15 a.m. until 9:45 a.m., than another rehearsal from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and after the lunch break till 1 – 1: 30 p.m. Then, various show rehearsals, and in the evening from 6-6:30 p.m. until 8:30-9:00 p.m., full-length rehearsals.

Which was your biggest challenge so far?
At the end of 2015, Mrs. Amanda Bennett, our school Director, decided together with the other teachers to have me participate in Nutcracker rehearsals in both principal roles (a.n. together with my colleague and friend Amyra Badro)
My mind’s voice said “it’s now or never”. Why did I say that? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted that all the audience watch me and my partner as Principals and I’ve always wanted to play the Prince.
4-5 years ago, teachers used to say that I was fitted for first soloist, specially for the Prince. I was very pleased with such nice words and I dreamt of being a prince on the stage.
So time came for my dream to come true
This was an experience I would always remember!. It was the most stressful experience of my life, those 3 months prior the performance! I lost 3 kilos in 2 months; I lived only for thinking of my 2 principal roles. Every moment, I kept thinking of teacher’s corrections, the role I had to play, I was very nervous as I wanted everything to look perfect from the very first time.
2 months before the premiere, I had rehearsals almost every day. I was exhausted…and the toughest part was still to come – 2 weeks before general rehearsals added to an already busy schedule
I had 3 Nutcracker performances. First was on December 5th and the other 2 were in the same day of the following week: one in the afternoon and one in the evening. So I said to myself: “once I finish dancing on Sunday evening, I will scream out loud to release the whole tension:” I had never been happy and satisfied with myself; somehow I felt that I didn’t do all my best. Thanks to my first teacher, back in Romania, I tried everything to be as perfect as possible and that got into my head and became kind of a reflex. She used to say “when someone dances perfectly, no one can say anything wrong about him and he cannot be disadvantaged” I tried to apply this words everyday and every time I went on stage.
Finally the big day was there. I was almost satisfied by the Premiere, but the thought of the following 2 performances was knocking me down. “The” Sunday finally came to an end and one of the teachers came to me to congratulate and asked “are you finally laughing?” question that made me laugh even harder. I finally laughed, after all the time while I couldn’t force a smile, being so stressed up with my role and so involved in improving my dancing skills.
This experience was unique to me for 2 reasons: first for dancing the role of Prince on the Basel scene, then for being the most stressful period of my life.
It was an enormous chance for me to learn and also an extraordinary experience.
Another unique experience I have lived recently, when my father died with brain cancer.
He went through a brain surgery a couple of years ago, when suffering from a tumor. After that, half of his body remained paralyzed. Then, he slowly started to recover using all kinds of therapies, but unfortunately we ran out of money . My mother was the only house provider as dad was not able to work and we hardly met the ends meet. By that moment, he reached a point where he could walk and his left part was a bit better although he couldn’t use his left hand.
On December 17th, 2015, he decided to go to the hospital to run a couple of tests since he was not feeling well. Doctors quickly decided to perform surgery. I clearly remember that day of Thursday 17th. I was on skype talking to my family as usual and they gave me the news of my father’s surgery. I had a sudden feeling and told them that as weird as it sounded, that I thought he would not live any longer.
It was winter holiday and I arrived in Romania and got into his hospital room on a Saturday night, and then again on Sunday. His surgery was planned for Monday. That Sunday, a day I would always remember, we brought him home made food, he ate like a baby and then I helped him to bath. As I was washing him, I felt his was out of power; he was worried about the surgery, but didn’t want me to know. As I washed him, dressed him up and tucked him to bed, I was thinking I was only doing a tiny bit of what he deserved, but at least I did that from the bottom of my heart.
On that fatidical Monday, December 21st, me, my brother and my mother went to see him, no more than 1 hour. So tough for me to see him, the powerful and optimistic man I knew, now being so afraid…
We all felt powerless…and I went to dance as I had promised to my colleague Amyra to dance a Nutcracker PDD on Bucharest National Opera stage. Half an hour later, I was at the Opera House ready to start rehearsals for the next day. I only got dressed up and my phone rang. It was my uncle saying “take a cab and come over” On the way to the hospital, I was flooded by all kind of bad thoughts but I tried to keep cool. Once I got there, he was at Intensive Care, where I saw the doors opening and my mother crying as hard as I never saw. My brother was crying too, only my uncle was trying to remain calm. I learnt dad was in coma and doctors didn’t know how for how long would he survive. I wanted to see him…The picture of him with a drain in his head was terrible!
After all this I was supposed to dance to keep my promise…I thought if I would have the power and decided to give it a go.
First I wanted to dance for my father, then I knew that a dancer should always dance under all circumstances. So, I did it. On December 22nd, I danced on the National Opera’s stage.
I was so happy to do it! It was the performance I had managed to show to my father prior his surgery. He was so proud of me, that he showed the reel to all nurses in the hospital! Then I felt so calm, so serene and so powerful, that was a tremendous experience! I was sure that my father knew I wanted to dance so he had given me the power.
For the next two weeks, we went to see him every day, although we knew he would never be the same again, he would never wake up, never hold us…
On January 3rd, he died in the morning. It was the day I was supposed to get back to Basel. I had to change tickets and stay for the funerals.
I wrote all the above and opened up in front of you, my readers, because I believe I am not the only one to get through all these. I am sure there are children in more difficult situation. To be honest, I consider myself one of the luckiest persons in the world, because in spite of all the terrible events, all my dreams came true. I have worked hard and I won’t stop here
I would like to end by suggesting you all, that no matter what happens between you and your family, friends, colleagues, or people you have just met, try to appreciate each second as the last. If there is one thing I learned, is that nobody is here forever. So live for the moment, each and every day.
As a final note, I want to share with you my father’s last message:”Do everything you want to do today, but take care not to be ashamed by that tomorrow”

Screenshot 2016-02-01 22.25.04Photo: “Nutcracker” – Ballettschule Theater Basel

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Costache Mihai Claudiu, 17 years, Ballettschule Theater Basel My Experience as a Ballet Student part 1

12631228_721342874634617_847297344_o1. When and where did you start taking ballet lessons?
I started dancing at the Children’s Palace in Ploiesti, where I took modern dance lessons. There, my teacher, Mr. Robert Zahariuc, seeing my potential and qualities, decided after a while to talk to my parents to enrol me at “Floria Capsali” High School of Choreography (Bucharest) where I could have performed at a much higher level and my horizons could become wider.
My parents have agreed with that proposal and one day we decided to go to the High School of Choreography, to attend a dance lesson.
Once there, I suddenly had a shock, because the studios I knew looked nothing like the one in which I found myself. A few seconds later, the ballet teacher described to me how a BALLET studio looked like. When I heard the word BALLET, I looked puzzled at my parents and frowned. Strange enough, there were bars all around, students were supporting their hands on them, someone was continuously playing the piano and a teacher was showing students some exercises I could not understand. What was I doing there?
After a dozen of minutes , watching the ballet class, I heard the teacher announcing the end of the lesson. When she got out of the room, she told me to follow her downstairs in order to introduce me to her other colleagues. On the way to the teacher’s room, in my mind, I knew I would have to give an answer, whether I want to join their school the next year or not, but the first idea that came to my mind was: “When you do something with passion and follow your heart, time is running very quickly.” Then I realized what the word BALLET meant, a word that was foreign to me until a few minutes before. After taking some tests, I took the decision to start the next school year at “Floria Capsali”, the vocational Ballet School in Bucharest
The first year of ballet at “Floria Capsali” High School of Choreography
I started ballet in my fifth grade; given that the High School of Choreography was in Bucharest and I was from Ploiesti, I had to stay alone, without my parents; I stayed in a campus for students.
There was no way to change anything because that campus was my only options to begin studies at that high school and I had no relatives or friends where I could have stayed.
For me, the first 3 weeks were exactly as I imagined at first: the teacher was very nice to us and I loved the exercises, up to a point when she started to ask for more and more, something that was difficult for me to understand at that early age.
Besides the rigor of a ballet life, I was facing the fact of living away from my parents and family at only 10, away from their love, care and tenderness, away from the home cozy sofa, TV, mom’s laundry and home cooking. You got the picture 🙂
Years passed and I started to get used to that, always having in the back of my mind that I wanted to achieve my dream, to become a great dancer. So , when I reached the age of participating in ballet competitions (Olympics called in Romania) I started to win the first prizes at national level.When I was 14, I decided to prepare myself for a very important competition, Tanzolymp in Berlin_Germany, in the pursuit of winning a scholarship, a goal I have wanted to reach ever since starting the ballet school.
In two months, I had to tend to perfection to fulfil my dream; working and rehearsing almost 100% every day, I could not fail.
When I arrived in Berlin, everything was new to me: I was in a competition in another country alone. My two other colleagues both had a family member with them. So there I was, on my own.
I tried to get over and I prayed every night and tried to rest as much as possible to give the best the next day.
After the competition, all participants gathered in a ballet studio to attend an hour of classical studies and the jury was supposed to choose the students for the scholarships
After completing the class, all participants remained at their places and jurors went to the selected participants. I did not think and did not expect anyone would come to me.
Despite my original thought, a few seconds later, a lady came to me and told me about her school. And then another one came, and another one followed. In the end, I won several scholarships:
a) 3 scholarships to study at Basel Balletschool, London National Ballet School and Vienna Ballet School
b) 3 scholarships for summer schools in : New York, Germany and Washington.
I was very happy, and eager to tell my parents, but decided to wait for the verdict and then give them the big news.
After the award ceremony, I called my parents, announced them that I had won the second place, and told them about all scholarships I got.
When I returned home, relaxing after all emotions of that week, I started to send mails to all schools offering the scholarship to find exactly what they could give.
After explaining my parents’ financial situation and sending them all kinds of documents, Switzerland-Basel made me the best offer! Without it I don’t think I could have gone anywhere! They offered me a full 3 years scholarship including: accommodation, food, health insurance and airline tickets to return home for vacations.
I did not waste too much time thinking, because they had made me the ideal offer. Afterwards, I received responses from the other countries, but unfortunately it was too late! I now take this opportunity to thank from the bottom of my heart to those who had faith in me and gave me a chance through their scholarships!
Moreover, I take this opportunity to thank to several people without whom my dream could not have come true:
To my parents, because they were, are and will remain my greatest support, to our good family friend, Mr. Ion Melnic, without whom I would not have participated in the contest in Berlin-Tanzolym, to my former teacher Ms. Diana Mateescu to whom I owe all my achievements and results I have obtained so far, and I thank her for her tough teaching style, because I can say that she had a huge contribution to my professional and personal thinking, because I learnt from her that every time, everything we do, we have to strive for perfection; not last but not least I would like to thank to Mrs. Julie Werlock (DIRECTOR – JUNIOR PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL) and Mrs. Amanda Bennett (DIRECTOR – BALLETSCHULE THEATER BASEL AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR-PRIX DE LAUSANNE), without whom I would have not been able to progress at international level!


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Mannheim Academy of Dance – Rebecca Bowden

image        My name is Rebecca Bowden. I am 17 and from the UK. I am currently training in the 2nd year at the Akademie Des Tanzes (Academy of Dance) under the leadership of Birgit Keil in Mannheim, Germany. The application process for this school may seem daunting as everything on the application is in German, however it is fairly straight forward really, the only complicated thing is having to have all your school certificates professionally translated into German . The school holds two auditions a year, the first in April and the second in September. There is also the option to send a DVD and attend a private audition which is what I did. I think it was good to attend a private audition as I could get a feel for the training in the class and if it would suit me. Classes are taught in the Vaganova style which have been adapted to modern stage practice. There are around 60 students in the school so the small classes lead to a lot of individual attention.

I normally wake up around 6:30 on weekdays. Our ballet class starts at 9am so I like to wake up early and get to the studio around 8 to warm up. Ballet class is always 2hrs. The classes are very tough and are very detailed so I really feel that I am learning a lot and improving everyday. The dance schedule is different each day however we normally have a break after ballet class followed by Pas de Deux. At the moment we are focusing a lot on the partnering technique which is very important for both the males and females. We have a very good teacher who explains a lot so we can learn to work with one another and fix issues in the movements or the way the boy is lifting us etc. After that, we’d usually have pointe work and then either a modern class where we focus on the Graham technique or character class. We have Pilates three times a week which I find really beneficial for strength and mobilising the spine. If I have energy I also go to the gym to keep my fitness levels up. On Saturdays we have improvisation class which involves being given a theme and we then improvise to the music in small groups and give each other feed back which I believe is an important part of the learning process.

At the Academy we are doing a Bachelor of arts programme so we also have lessons such as dance history, music theory and theatre history which are taught to everybody in English. Foreign students are required to attend German classes which are one and a half hours on Friday and another three hours on Saturday. It can be long and tedious however I think that it is good to have a decent knowledge of German. As well as having to pass the dance exams it is also necessary to pass the German exams at the end of the year which provides me with further motivation to learn the language.

There are 5 levels at the Academy: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Levels 1-4 are doing the BA and the 5th year is optional to gain your Masters degree.In the 4th and 5th years we have the opportunity to dance with the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe which is a great way to get a feel for company life.

Unfortunately, there is no accommodation provided, however Mannheim has many student accommodation blocks where the majority of students live and the Academy provide a helpful list of options. Most of the students come from all over the world such as Brazil, Australia, Japan and Korea. We have to cook our own meals which I really enjoy doing as I am very interested in health and nutrition. I think it is very important for dancers to nourish their bodies with food that will give sufficient energy and also maintain a healthy weight. I like to eat foods such as grilled chicken, lots of vegetables, some fruit and I also like to bake cookies and cakes however using healthy alternatives such as ground almonds instead of flour, and coconut oil instead of butter and coconut sugar instead of normal refined sugar and they still taste very delicious, there are many food blogs online which specialise in these kind of healthier options.

I am very happy i have been given the opportunity to train at the Academy and it is everything I have hoped for. I hope I have provided some useful information about the school for anyone thinking of applying.

Here is a link the the website which is also in English:

There are many videos of performances on the website and also of students on youtube.

Posted in Academy of Dance Mannheim, Balet, Ballet, Ballet school, professional training for ballet dancers, Scoala de balet, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is GYROTONIC® Good for Me?

All over the world people are experiencing the life changing benefits of GYROTONIC® method from young to old, professional sports people and celebrities from pro golfers Tiger Woods and Mark Wilson to Madonna, Liv Tyler and Julianne Moore.

In the same time GYROTONIC® method receives global recognition from Chiropractors, Neurologists, Orthopedics and Physical therapists.


The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® will strengthen the core muscles as well as the smaller muscle groups. The exercises are multi dimensional and require muscle groups to work simultaneously therefore building the kinetic chain, which will enhance any sports person’s performance.

Swimmers working on the GYROTONIC® can regulate exact movement patterns and exactness of positions, which obviously isn’t achievable under water. Smoothness of motion, versatility and gracefulness is needed in all forms of sport, GYROTONIC® offers this to you what ever your speciality.

Marion Accola, an up-and-coming golfer, turned to GYROTONIC® to improve strength and flexibility. “After doing GYROTONIC® about once a week through the winter last year, I have gained much more strength,” she says. “I can drive the ball about 20 yards farther due to increased flexibility, a more coiled turn and the strength I have built in my arms.”

Boxing coach and avid mountain biker Gilbert Million, credits GYROTONIC® with increasing his core strength, balance and coordination — and a dramatic difference in his handling skills on bike trails.
GYROTONIC® brings that circular motion,” he says. “It’s unique in that you’re using your muscles throughout their range.”

GYROTONIC® increases the functional capacity of the entire organism,” says Matt Aversa, vice president and COO of the GYROTONIC® International Headquarters. “Even if you’re just playing ping-pong, it helps.”

Injuries happen when being physically active during any type of sport. GYROTONIC® can reduce the risk of injury by increasing strength with flexibility.Athletes can perfect performance and avoid injuries caused by overcompensation due to weakness or misalignment.


Children learn how to build and maintain a healthy, strong and upright body early in life. GYROTONIC® will aid co-ordination and help children to become more aware of their body. It will strengthen and tone them working on symmetry throughout the movements.
As a children grow it is vital that the muscles and tendons are strong enough to support the skeletal system, thus aiding in the prevention of muscular imbalances.

By introducing your child to the GYROTONIC® you are enabling them to improve their posture, general health and confidence as well as aiding in maximizing their physical capabilities.


Seniors can greatly reduce pain and increase their range of movement. GYROTONIC® will enhance balance and strengthen muscles that may have lost the ability to fully function after injury or operation. GYROTONIC® offers the ability to exercise without putting pressure on the joints, enabling the ligaments and muscles to gain strength.


GYROTONIC® is a great way during pre and post natal to keep mobile and strong throughout the pregnancy. It can be a gentle and stress free alternative to more conventional ways of exercising.


Professionals can quickly resolve lower back discomfort often generated by desk work. Each session is individually tailored to your own personal needs and you will work according to your own physical capabilities.Your instructor will encourage you to talk to him throughout the session so that he can be aware of how you are feeling.

Once you become more familiar with GYROTONIC® and gain more strength, the sessions will become more advanced enabling you to continue to maximise your physical capabilities. Your co-ordination and rhythm will improve with each GYROTONIC® session; this in turn will enhance the way that you perform everyday movements. Your flexibility, posture and own physical awareness will significantly improve. Throughout your GYROTONIC® sessions you will be shown how to focus on your breathing, this will aid relaxation as well as increasing the oxygen supply to the muscles and organs.

For more information on GYROTONIC® method in Bucharest, you may contact Vlad Ilcenco , e-mail:

Posted in Gyrotonic, Gyrotonic Bucharest, Gyrotonic Bucuresti, professional training for athletes, professional training for ballet dancers, Vlad Ilcenco | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment