What lies behind lightness

By Judith Hunger, guest entry published by Zett, a magazine by Zurich University of the Arts, 2018

What began in 1832 with the world premiere of the ballet “La Sylphide” is still part of the training received by future ballerinas: dancing on pointe. The challenging footwork is also taught and practised everyday at Zurich Dance Academy.

“Pointe work is highly demanding and requires very good training, patience and discipline. It takes a long time before the lightness becomes visible,” says Steffi Scherzer, artistic director of Zurich Dance Academy (taZ). She knows what she is talking about. Her career — from group dancer to prima ballerina — lasted 28 years. “It takes students some time to find the right pointe shoes. It’s constant trial and error,” adds Tina Goldin, who teaches classical dance and pointe work at taZ. The shoes, moreover, must be individually fitted. Possible pressure points need to be softened as a precaution, elastic bands are sewn onto the shoe or the sole need shaping. This can take up to an hour. Not unusually, ballerinas prepare more than one pair of pointe shoes per performance. They might even need to change shoes between scenes.

A new role for the foot

It was the legendary Marie Taglioni who first danced a whole performance on tiptoe in Paris in 1832. Henceforth called “prima ballerina,” she lent the mythological air spirit — Sylphide — a new body- and weightlessness. In addition, Marie Taglioni wore a tutu for the first time in the eponymous ballet — a “romantic” tutu, as it is called in technical jargon. Yet another sensation was that, up until those days, ballerinas were dancing in frock coats. The bone of contention was the length — or rather the shortness — of the tutus. It reached down to roughly the middle of the calf to provide a clear view of the ballerina’s footwork. The dancer’s foot thus assumed a new role: it became part of the dancer’s artistic expression.

Pointe shoes must become part of the body. Photograph: © taZ

Countless tricks for foot care

From a medical point of view, a ballerina’s foot assumes a new function in pointe dance. She stands on her “stretched-out” foot — in what resembles a small evolutionary step. Her body weight is balanced in the toe cap, which is glued with several layers of fabric, on a very small surface. To dance professionally and safely in pointe shoes, the feet must be strengthened under expert guidance over several years through very specific training.

Feet subject to such wear and tear require intensive care. taZ students massage them with rubber balls, cushion their pointe shoes and bind their toes in special tape. Extensive application of cream, to keep the skin as soft and elastic as possible, is as much a daily ritual as strengthening the feet through special exercises using resistance bands. In short, the list of tricks in ballerina foot care is as lengthy and personal as the infinite range of different feet.

Mobility is prerequisite

“And roll up! Stand stable above the tip! Arms up! Keep your balance,” Tina Goldin instructs her undergraduate students. “We start with the simplest bar exercises. At this stage they primarily serve to build up strength,” she explains. The individual elements are still clearly distinct. “The feet should also preserve a certain elasticity,” adds Steffi Scherzer. Natural foot and body mobility and flexibility are essential prerequisites for professional ballet. “We can promote mobility, but we can’t create it. It’s a prerequisite for classical academic dance.”

What begins simply ends highly demandingly. Advanced classes focus on speed and on mastering the different dynamics. Students also devote much time to skillfully combining individual elements — the soft and expressive in the adagio, the swift and lively in the allegro — into a virtuoso whole. At this stage, the pointe shoes should no longer be a foreign object, but must have become an integral part of the foot, the leg, the entire body.

Guest Author

Judith Hunger (judith.hunger@zhdk.ch), responsible for communications at ZHdK’s Department of Performing Arts and Film, quotes Kafka in this context: “Art needs craftsmanship more than craftsmanship needs art.”

Photo on Top: Getting ready for a training session at Zurich Dance Academy (taZ). Photograph: © taZ

This entry appeared on 7th May 2018 in Zett, a magazine by Zurich University of the Arts www.zhdk.ch/zett.

BALLETTKALENDER 2021

Zauberhafte Fotos von Dietmar Scherf

Bis „Schwanensee“ wieder live zu sehen ist, bringt der Wandkalender „Zauberhaftes Ballett“ 2021 schon jetzt Vorfreude ins Haus. Die zwölf Motive im Großformat zeigen berühmte Ensembles des Klassischen Balletts wie das St. Petersburg Festival-Ballett und das Staatliche Russische Ballett Moskau auf der Bühne und hinter den Kulissen.

Weiterlesen „BALLETTKALENDER 2021“

What Dance Can Do – Bring Dance to Children

Dance changes lives. We have seen it happen!

Interview with Aurélia Sellier, Founder and President of „The What Dance Can Do Project“.

Tell me about „The What Dance Can Do Project“.

We fund dance programs and events for children and young adults made vulnerable by illness, poverty or exile. We also aim to celebrate the power of dance by sharing the stories of dancers, and encourage the work of people who use their art to make the world a better place.

I founded this international Switzerland-based non-profit organization in 2018. It’s run by a team of volunteers, based in Zurich, Paris, Brussels and Wellington. Our first destination was the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town, where we collected stories of the teacher, dancer and social entrepreneur Theo NDindwa and his students and made photographs. Photography is an important medium for us, and we had our work, text by me and images by the photographer Selina Meier exhibited in Copenhagen thanks to The Royal Danish Ballet.

Help us and bring dance to children – Introduction by Selina Meier and Aurélia Sellier
Weiterlesen „What Dance Can Do – Bring Dance to Children“

A Force of Nature: Natalia

An Outstanding portrait of Natalia Osipova

Get a close insight into Natalia’s career as one of the greatest prima ballerinas. Learn more about her work as a principal dancer of the Royal Ballet and her contemporary dance projects with some of the world’s greatest choreographers. Watch the rehearsal process of new ballet Mother by Arthur Pita, a new commission with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and the Royal Ballet’s legendary production of La Bayadere directed by Natalia Makarova.

It’s amazing how hard Natalia works on all choreographies she dances – both on a technical and emotional level. Even the superstars of the ballet world have to rehearse and re-rehearse every ballet, even the ones they have already performed, getting corrections from their ballet masters as they aim for perfection.

Asterisk Films
An in-depth portrait of dance superstar Natalia Osipova, directed by BAFTA winning Gerry Fox, produced by Justine Waddell, Alexandrina Markvo and Gerry Fox in association with Sky Arts.
Weiterlesen „A Force of Nature: Natalia“

Fallen – A Dance Performance

Tanz und Video als Auseinandersetzung mit der Vergangenheit, gegenwart und Zukunft

Im Rahmen von #ZeitsprungIndustrie Baden findet diese Live-Performance mit 5 Tänzerinnen am 3. und 4. September 2020 in der alten Metallgiesserei in Rieden statt. Bitte reservieren!

Weiterlesen „Fallen – A Dance Performance“

A Beach in a Box – Opera Performance at Theater Spektakel

SUN & SEA by RUGILĖ BARZDŽIUKAITĖ, VAIVA GRAINYTĖ & LINA LAPELYTĖ

What is happening at the beach? Listen to holidaymakers singing about their experiences and their lives.

Weiterlesen „A Beach in a Box – Opera Performance at Theater Spektakel“

Ballet Zurich – Company of the Year

Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern – Production of the Year

Congratulations to Ballet Zürich and Christian Spuck

Weiterlesen „Ballet Zurich – Company of the Year“

Betroffenheit by Crystal Pite 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

watch this outstanding work on Marquee.TV

It’s one of the best choreographies I’ve seen. As many of you know, I really love the contemporary works of Crystal Pite, an outstanding female choreographer who works internationally with the best companies.

DIRECTOR Crystal Pite, Jonathon Young, Jeff Tudor
STARRING Kidd Pivot, Electric Company Theatre, Bryan Arias, David Raymond, Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey, Tiffany Tregarthen, Jonathon Young

Betroffenheit is a riveting, tender-hearted exploration of loss, isolation and survival in the aftermath of a life-altering tragedy. This dance-theatre hybrid has been acclaimed as the „best dance show of the 21st century“ by The Guardian and won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Jonathon Young was also deservedly awarded Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. Five astonishing performers create the mindscape of Young’s tormented central character as he moves from despair towards the hope of recovery. Written by Young and choreographed by Crystal Pite, the result is a genre-defying piece of dance theatre that has stunned critics and audiences worldwide. Betroffenheit was recorded during its sold-out performances at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London, in April 2017. This sensitive performance capture was directed for the screen by Jeff Tudor, winning the Rose d’Or (Arts) and Golden Prague (Performing Arts) awards 2018. (source: Marquee.TV)

Foto on Top © Marquee.TV

The Art of Pas de Deux

What are the challenges of a classical Pas de Deux?

Weiterlesen „The Art of Pas de Deux“

Wie geht Theater/Ballett in Zeiten von Corona?

Zürcher Theater Spektakel macht Forsythe’s Choreografie mobil

Die interaktive Videoinstallation «City of Abstracts 2020» des Starchoreografen William Forsythe ist unterwegs von Schwamendingen bis Altstetten und von Höngg bis Wollishofen. Wo wird jeweils um 14 Uhr angekündigt im Festival News on Demand. Unbedingt den Newsletter abonnieren!

https://www.theaterspektakel.ch/programm20/produktion/william-forsythe/

Hier ein Einblick in „City of Abstracts“

Das Programm des diesjährigen Theater Spektakels schafft viele neue Formate wie Hörspiele im öffentlichen Raum, Theater auf einem Schiff, Live-Telefon-Performances und Collective Listening auf der Picknickdecke.

https://www.theaterspektakel.ch/

Schaut mal rein. Es wird spannend…….

Beitragsbild © Marcella Winograd