Blog: Brandywine's Ballet Bag!

  • The Basics of Balanchine

    Who is George Balanchine? You may have heard the name from our upcoming Fall Series this weekend, but who is this man that has been named “the father of American ballet” and is revered throughout the dance world?

    George Balanchine, regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet, was born in Russia and came to the United States in late 1933 following an early career throughout Europe. Balanchine came to America in 1933, and the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934. The School remains in operation to this day, training students for the New York City Ballet and companies throughout the United States and the world. From the opening of the school until his death, Balanchine served as artistic director for the New York City Ballet, choreographing (either wholly or in part) the majority of the productions the company has introduced since its inception. His complete list of works included 465 pieces. He passed away in 1983.

     His work Serenade that will be performed by Brandywine Ballet was the first original ballet Balanchine created in America and is one of the signature works of New York City Ballet’s repertory. The first performance of Serenade was on June 10, 1934, by students of the School of American Ballet, at Felix Warburg’s estate, White Plains, New York. The ballet is performed by 28 dancers in blue costumes in front of a blue background. Originating it as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet. After its initial presentation, Serenade was reworked several times. In its present form there are four movements — “Sonatina,” “Waltz,” “Russian Dance,” and “Elegy.” The last two movements reverse the order of Tschaikovsky’s score, ending the ballet on a note of sadness. Serenade is a fascinating “insiders look” into the dynamics of the dance studio and Balanchine’s unique method of creating a new ballet.

    Serenade

    Choreography by George Balanchine

    © The George Balanchine Trust

     

    Music:

    Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48

    Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky

     

    Sources:

    http://balanchine.com/serenade/

    https://www.nycballet.com/Explore/Our-History/George-Balanchine.aspx

     

    Photography:

    Tim Early

  • We're Growing and Changing!

    This year, Brandywine Ballet has welcomed some new staff members to our organization. Read a bit about them below –

    Jennifer Grisin, Accountant

    Jen began working at BBC in January, so you may have already met her! Jen oversees the finances and accounting of the office and helps keep everything working smoothing in the office. She received her B.S. from WCU, and her Certificate of Accountancy from DCCC.

    Tim Early, Production Manager

    Tim is a familiar face to most of us, as he is the Resident Choreographer of Brandywine Contemporary, and has been a professional dancer with us for over 20 years. This year, Tim will take on a new role in the BBC office as the Production Manager and will oversee logistics and coordination of our performances. We are excited to have him on board in this new capacity.

    Bodhi Ryan Louis

    As many of you know, our Director of Operations Jaime gave birth to her first child on June 5, a little boy! We are excited to have both Jaime and Bodhi with us this upcoming season.

     

    Say hi to any member of our team if you see them around!

  • Congrats to the Class of 2018!

    As with every completed season, this year we must congratulate our beautiful senior dancers as they embark on the next stage of their lives. Congrats to the Class of 2018! Here are our four Brandywine Ballet graduating seniors, the colleges they have chosen to attend next year, and their reflection on their time with Brandywine Ballet and advice for the next generation of dancers.

    Abby – Elon University

     

    "My advice to the younger dancers is to live in the moment, because one day you'll be a senior looking back, wishing you could do it all over again!" - Abby

    Halle – West Chester University and the Brandywine Ballet Certificate in Ballet

      

    "My message to the younger dancers is to have confidence in yourself. All of you are so beautiful and talented and you need to be confident about it!" - Halle

    Chloe – High Point University

      

    "To all the younger dancers - thank you for being my second family. Enjoy dancing every day with your friends while you can, because before you know it, you will be going your separate ways" - Chloe

    Annamarie – West Chester University

     

    "I've made so many amazing frienships and I feel lucky to have been surrounded by so many talented dancers!" - Annamarie

  • Costumes, Costumes, Costumes!

    One of the most magical parts of The Nutcracker is seeing all of the characters in their beautiful costumes. The tutus, dresses, headpieces, props, and more bring the holiday tale to life.

    Throughout this year, we have been aiming to replace many of the Nutcracker costumes in order to bring new life into the various divertissements of the performance. Thanks to your generous contributions, we are excited to be bringing brand new, custom costumes for Waltz of the Flowers, Angles, Candy Canes, and the Sugar Plum and her Cavalier to the stage next month!

    Our costumers are working hard to decorate, style, and fit all of the costumes for the dancers before next week. Our in studio dress rehearsals last week gave us a sneak peak into the costumes before they are perfected for the stage!

    If you’d like to help us in our next goal to purchase more Nutcracker costumes, please consider donating at a performance this year! We will be offering special gifts and complimentary tickets to those who support our Nutcracker Costuming Fund. Click here to learn more!

    We will see you at The Nutcracker!

  • A Sneak Peak with Lucy from Dracula!

    This month’s VIDEO blog features Sydney Bennett! Sydney is one of our professional dancers who has now been with and moved up through Brandywine Ballet for the past 10 years! In addition to celebrating this monumental anniversary, Sydney will be dancing the role of Lucy in the upcoming performance of Dracula. Interested in learning more about her character and the process of getting ready for the ballet? Watch her interview for more!

  • Setting the Barre – A Ballet & Arts Education

    As the new school year approaches, most families are gearing up to purchase new pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, and other traditional school supplies. Our Brandywine Ballet families know that the start of a new school year also brings about a new dance season, and with it new ballet supplies. Leotards, tights, hair ties, and shoes are sure to be on that list. For our ballerinas, and dancers around the world, the art of practicing dance is an important part of their education – an arts education.

    A dance education enriches many facets of a student’s life. Active athleticism, discipline, motivation, and hard work are some of the life long lessons that a dancer is taught during their training. These lessons will translate not only into a career in dance or the arts, but to whatever path a young dancer elects to take. 

    In a research report supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Dance Education Organization reflected on many students that supported the notion that dance education impacted math, language, and kinetic learning with a positive correlation. In addition this report also stated that students who are provided with general arts education are more likely to be creative thinkers, have higher test scores, and pursue and graduate college.

    This fall will bring about hard classes, long rehearsals, and sore feet for all dancers. Dancers, families, and audience members alike will remember that there is so much more to the hard work that goes into putting on a performance. The art of dance brings enrichment into all of our lives; in this moment, in years past, and in years to come.

     

    https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Research-Art-Works-NDEO.pdf

  • Summer Time Sun & Stretches

    Summer or the off-season is a wonderful time to rest, relax, and recoup. After a long, tough performance series, it is important for dancers to rejuvenate their bodies and minds. A part of this is ensuring that our bodies stay healthy and happy. Principal dancer of Brandywine Ballet Jaime L. Louis gives some easy tips and techniques on how a dancer can stay relaxed yet mindful during the summer season - 

    1)  Over the summer, chances are you either find yourself not dancing as regularly as you did during the season, or you find yourself in the midst of an intensive. No matter what your summer is looking like, body maintenance is very important. Regular stretching (5-10 minutes in the morning) will ensure that you keep some of your former flexibility so returning to dance in the fall will not be such a shock to your body. Or, it will be a gentle way to wake up and help with injury prevention. If you find it difficult to try some yoga poses or to stretch on your own, there are plenty of podcasts out there to help guide you. If you are aware of the parts of your body that are extra tight, or weak, take the time over the summer to focus on releasing or strengthening these areas (for example, using a thera-band for some ankle strength maintenance) and it will be helpful as you transition back into the regular season.

    2) Healthy eating is integral no matter what you do, but it is even more important if you are very active. Keeping a balanced diet that is capable of supporting you throughout your day is helpful to body and brain function. I am a firm believer in breakfast. Breakfast will get your metabolism going, and help to fuel you throughout the day. Protein in the morning will be filling and also sustaining, and can be paired with a healthy carb (like whole grain toast, or granola) and some fruit or yogurt. For lunch in the summertime a salad featuring some of your favorite fresh veggies is a refreshing option and some protein will help you re-build muscles. For dinner, again a balance of protein, vegetables, and some sustaining carbs (like quinoa or brown rice) is a good choice. Also snacking on some nuts, fruit, or veggies throughout your day when you are hungry or you notice your attention is wavering. Drink water throughout the day– lots of water! Noticing and keeping track of how different foods make you feel after consuming them can be a helpful way for you to plan your meals and your snacks throughout the day.  Remember that your body needs fuel to function properly; whole un-processed foods will provide the highest quality fuel. Be mindful about what you put into your body, and how the food makes you feel.

    3) Mental health is important. Some ways you can cultivate mental health are through reading, writing, drawing, dancing, being outside, doing yoga, or anything else that gives you a sense of peace. Reading helps keep the mind healthy and happy. Sitting outside with a good book can be a relaxing and nourishing experience. Keeping a notebook and a pencil nearby for writing down any thoughts, or drawing can also be helpful. Making some time to be in nature is also important for mental health; go for walks or hikes, go swimming, be barefoot in the grass, and be grateful. Taking time to connect to the natural world and to cultivate gratitude is calming, and good for perspective. As dancers, movement can be a great way for us to find peace through the connection of mind and body, so make sure you give yourself time to dance. Some days are hard, and some days feel like a breeze, but no two days are exactly alike, and this holds true for you as a human and as a dancer. Allow yourself time to explore, to make mistakes, and to grow. Enjoy every minute; life is a beautiful gift, and being able to express how you feel through dance is something to be grateful for. 

  • Congrats to the BBC Class of 2017!

    The completion of a season brings about the end of an era. As with every June, Brandywine Ballet says goodbye to a group of graduating high school and college seniors. This year, eight high school and one college gradudate say farewell as they enter the next stage of their lives. 

    As they embark on this new journey, our high school seniors reflect on their time at Brandywine Ballet –

    “Brandywine Ballet has given us skills and experiences that we will carry with us everywhere. In our time with the Company, we have learned that motivation, perseverance, and responsibility will result in continued growth. The Company taught us that hard work in dance is met with improvement, and while it may become difficult or tiring, the reward outweighs any temporary pain. The determination required for dance has made us more disciplined and we have learned how to accept critiques and apply them. Brandywine Ballet gave us teachers and opportunities that encouraged us to work harder in order to improve, and the demanding expectations and schedules made it necessary for us to push ourselves and to use our downtime wisely. It showed us that we are each responsible for being the best we can be in order to make performances—and the company as a whole—the best it possibly can be.

    While Brandywine Ballet required our time and devotion, it has given us so much in return. The time, the people, and the work have shaped our lives and our personalities. We’ve created inside jokes, lifelong friends, and lasting memories that would not have been possible without the wonderful people and resources that Brandywine Ballet provided.”

    -Brandywine Ballet, Class of 2017

     Top: Abigail, Ashley, Jessica, Kathryn

    Bottom: Madison, Samantha, Stephanie, Uma

    This year we also congratulate Laura Betz, our graduating college senior!

    Laura graduated in May from West Chester University with a Bachelors Degree in Liberal and Professional Studies, a minor in Elementary Education and Psychology, and a Certificate in Ballet from Brandywine Ballet. She has accepted a position as a Preschool Assistant Teacher at The Meadowbrook School in Abington, PA. Laura will be returning next season as a professional dancer, so you will have many more opportunities to see this beautiful dancer take the stage! 

    Thank you to each and every one of our Brandywine Ballet dancers for a fantastic season! The staff, faculty, and Board of Directors wish you every bit of luck and success as you enter this next stage in life. Remember, no matter where you go in life, you will always be a part of the BBC family!

  • See The Beauty!

    This month’s blog is all about capturing the truly spectacular beauty of our upcoming production of Beauty & The Beast. Susan Royce, a member of our BBC family, has captured some amazing footage of what is to come from the spectacular performance this weekend.

    “But she was really far prettier and cleverer than they were. Indeed, she was so lovely she was always called Beauty.”

    “The howling of the wolves kept him awake, and when at last day broke, the falling snow had covered up every path, and he did not know which way to turn.”

     

    "Turning round, he saw a frightful Beast, which seemed to be very angry and said in a terrible voice: ‘Who told you you might gather my roses?’”

    Will the Beauty learn to love the Beast? Find out this weekend at Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall with Brandywine Ballet!

    Beauty & The Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

    Photographs by Susan Royce. 

    Tickets available here. 

  • Behind the Curtain

    There are a lot of moving parts when producing a new full-length ballet. Choreography, music, and the dancers play the largest role in piecing together the story. But elements such as sets and costuming take nearly as long to formulate. The new production of Beauty & The Beast coming this May has seen a total transformation of all of these components. Our seamstresses, set designers, and other helpers have been hard at work to make sure all of the pieces come together before May 19th.

    Beauty & The Beast has at least four major scenes. All of these scenes have elements that must be built, rented, purchased, or compiled. Our set designer and builder Kent Vendrick has been hard at work designing different pieces including a bookshelf, fountain, window, wall, rose garland, and more. Below is a to-scale representation of our stage’s floor and wing space at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, showcasing what the Beast’s Castle may look like during the ballet.

    From there, the heavy lifting begins. It takes countless hours to build such magnificent items, and to later transport to and install them at the theater during tech week. As we are approximately 5 weeks away from show week, we are right in the midst of the building process. Not only are there large-scale physical pieces to build, but there is painting, sewing, and more. Take a look below at some of the finer details you will see in our sets.

    Costumes are another element that takes many months to piece together. After the selection, order, and delivery process, fittings and alterations may take weeks to complete. Each costume also requires accessories like headpieces, shoes and tights, and any additional pieces that may suit the character. Some of the costumes for this ballet are being completely handmade in a custom format for our dancers, while other costumes are being re-worked to fit the ballet. Multiply this process by the approximate 100 dancers that are in Beauty & The Beast, and its no wonder it takes a village!

            

    All of this work must be completed by tech rehearsal week, approximately 4-7 days before the first performance. Dancers then spend several days rehearsing and running through the show in full costume amongst the completed sets. The final result is a beautiful production of a full-length storybook ballet. See this magical world, with all of its fantastic elements, come together May 19-21 at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall in West Chester. Beauty & The Beast is sure to excite and entice your entire family as you enter a fairytale land of wonder.