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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
A dancer’s ballet bag includes more than just the physical items they bring to their day-to-day classes and rehearsals. Their bag also include the lessons they’ve learned, personal exercises or relaxation techniques, and the tips and tricks they share with the next generation of dancers. Getting ready for a performance can be an especially stressful time. Between costumes and makeup, stretching and warm-ups, and reviewing choreography, each dancer has their own routine that helps them settle into their role on stage. We asked one of our professional dancers what she keeps in her internal, mental ballet bag and how she uses that to get performance ready!
Amanda Hill attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia as a ballet major on presidential scholarship and graduated with honors. She has performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet in their productions of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and joined the company on their tour to the National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada. After graduating college, Amanda joined BalletFleming in Philadelphia, where she danced for three seasons. She danced principal roles in many of their productions including the title role in Snow White. Amanda joined Brandywine Ballet in 2016 and has since been featured in our productions of Colour Brillanté and in The Nutcracker as the Snow Queen and Dew Drop Fairy.
Amanda tells us -
“I have dreamt of being a ballet dancer for as long as I can remember, and I am so lucky that I was able to make ballet into my career. I absolutely love being on stage, but it can be nerve wracking. Most professional dancers I know have specific rituals they like to follow when they are performing, myself included. The more obvious rituals include warming up, getting costumes ready, putting on makeup, etc. But we all have our own strange quirks as well - for me that starts with usually being one of the first people to arrive at the theatre. Nothing makes me more nervous than running late or rushing. I like to have plenty of time to slowly go through my routine. I also have a special warm-up sweater that I always have with me in the theatre, which is probably one of my more specific quirks.
Besides that, I use theatre week to establish a routine specific to the show and the parts I am dancing. I always like to make sure I can find a little quiet space before I perform to meditate on what I am about to do. I find that taking that time to calm my brain and surround myself in positive energy really makes a difference in how I feel when I’m dancing. So, if you see me standing in a quiet hallway by myself with my eyes closed, you’ll know what I’m doing! After I take that time, I’ll head upstairs to the wings to briefly go over my choreography and re-warm up. Right before I go onstage, I always “shake it out”. Basically, I stand in the wings and shake my whole body. It looks a little crazy but it really helps to get those last minute nerves out. Once I get onstage I try my best to not think! If I get too much in my own head I always mess up. Thinking is for rehearsals, in a performance you have to be completely in the moment, in your character, and in the music!”
Amanda is excited to be a part of Nancy Page’s new adaptation of Beauty & The Beast, coming this May 19-21 to West Chester. You don’t want to miss her dancing in a featured role as a part of Brandywine Ballet. Tickets are on sale now!
Welcome to BBC’s new blog, Brandywine’s Ballet Bag! Check back about once a month for new postings on everything dance and ballet – from tips and tricks, behind the scenes sneak peaks, interviews, and company exclusives!
For our first post, we want to highlight one of our premier groups, Brandywine Contemporary. Many of our audience members come each year to see The Nutcracker, and may miss this specular group of dancers. Established in 2013 by Tim Early, Resident Choreographer, and Donna Muzio, Artistic Director and Founder, this extraordinary group performs several times a year. Most recently they performed at our Fall Series in October of 2016, as well as WCU Dance Presents: Dance-Versity in January of 2017. These dancers showcase a unique set of talents and are trained in modern and contemporary dance with a diverse repertoire of choreography. In an exclusive interview, Co-Founder and Resident Chorographer Tim Early tells us a little bit more about the company –
-What was your mission and purpose for establishing Brandywine Contemporary?
It was Donna Muzio, Founder and Artistic Director, who approached me with the idea after seeing a group of dancers that had a consistent interest in contemporary dance. After several years of teaching modern at The Dance Center we thought it would be an additional outlet for the dancers and give them exposure to other dance styles.
-What are the dancers learning that is different than the Ballet Company?
Speaking from experience, I feel there are more similarities than differences and they compliment each other. Having the solid technical foundation from the ballet company, it allows me to challenge them in ways that use their technique but also gives them the freedom to explore alternative ways of moving. Using the familiar to create the unfamiliar is what brings energy to the choreographic process. Versatility is the key for any choreographer as far as I'm concerned, so having this experience makes them more valuable to anyone they work with.
-What do you hope the dancers learn from being a part of this company?
Being part of something they are proud of would be first and foremost. Being proud of their accomplishments, the work and what they contribute to the final product. Staying curious in dance and try different things. Explore and create!
-Where do you draw inspiration for your choreography?
Dancers. Music. Being in the studio with energetic talented dancers forces my creativity. I don't usually prepare and that's where the surprises come from. Seeing them explore and navigate their way through learning choreography is most rewarding. I don't want them to move like me, I want them to move from themselves. Their bodies are the tools they work with but their personalities are what they perform with. The music is what inspires me to challenge my way of moving. I can't say the dancers are always drawn in by my musical choices but once they connect with the movement inside the music hopefully they can begin to see my vision on how I see them.
-How often do you perform professionally?
I perform as much as I can and I still love doing it. Most of the year is spent with Brandywine Ballet. I'm co-director of a small contemporary dance group called Opus 1 and several times a year I do smaller performances and festivals. The company performs several times a year, both at BBC performances and local festivals or shows.
Graduating senior and Contemporary dancer, Kathryn Berman, tells us a little bit about her experience with the company –
Being a member of Brandywine Contemporary has been a wonderful experience for me as a growing dancer, and has given me the opportunity to explore different types of dance. While we never venture too far from a modern or jazzy style at Brandywine Contemporary, it takes me out of the more classical sphere that I pursue as a member of Brandywine Ballet Company. With the help of Tim Early, our choreographer, Brandywine Contemporary has shaped my dance by giving me a sense of the feeling of dancing with the full range and freedom of movement that contemporary dance encompasses. I have been able to apply this feeling to all of my dancing and I believe it has helped to mature my dancing and give it a more graceful quality in every style.
Tim Early has been an amazing resource. He has put so much work and time into giving Brandywine Contemporary opportunities to perform for a variety of audiences and making us the best dancers we can be in every style. In my final year with Brandywine Contemporary, I find myself sentimental about our Sunday morning rehearsals, the memories I have, and the people I met with Brandywine Contemporary. It is a wonderful program that gives its members opportunities to dance and perform more and to develop other talents and styles. I feel lucky to have been a part of Brandywine Contemporary and grateful for the impact it has had on my dancing and me.
You don't want to miss the next chance to see Brandywine Contemporary perform, at the Philadelphia Youth Dance Festival, on March 26 - 1pm, at Drexel University. Tickets are on sale now here!