November 27, 2008

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


Ballet — not for the faint of heart
What goes in to all those Nutcrackers?

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

So what goes into this now holiday staple, of which an abundance of performances have been performed since it was composed in the late 1800s? What goes into a ballet like The Nutcracker is hours and hours of patient work from dancers.

Michele Fodero danced professionally in the Fortworth Ballet in Texas for four years. She was an apprentice to the Hartford Ballet in Connecticut for a year before that, and returned to her home state of New Hampshire to teach with her teacher, Barbara Mullen. Now she’s teaching in Essex, Vt. Mullen runs Londonderry Dance Academy. Patience is key for dancers, Fodero said.

Every dancer knows the first thing that they will do in class is go to the barre and do plies — bending the knees, she said. An intermediate class, for example, is about an hour and a half long, Fodero explained. It starts with about 45 minutes of warm-up and working on technique at the barre. Then the dance students come to the center of the studio, and the class progresses with a slow combination of turns. Often an adagio, in which the dancer stands “unsupported by anything other themselves” to do a series of extensions such as leg lifts, is part of the class. They work on small jumps to warm up for larger jumps across the floor, and then might do a series of jumps and turns.

“I see that it’s a really repetitive source of training,” Fodero said, observing as a teacher now. “They come in week after week and repeat some of the same movements over and over again,” Fodero said. They need to in order to develop muscle memory.

The students learn to work hard toward the goal of perfecting techniques, and learn patience. There isn’t the instant gratification of scoring a goal, for example, Fodero said. What all of that repetition garners is the teacher finally telling the student, “You got it,” after months of working on one step. The only ones who are really aware of a student meeting his or her goals are the student and teacher. Perhaps twice a year, they might perform on stage, Fodero said.

As the students get older, they start coming to classes more than once a week. To keep up, they develop time management skills and usually become very focused both academically and in ballet, Fodero said.

“So I guess what they take out into real world ... is patience with themselves, self-motivation, self-discipline and time management, as well as the confidence,” Fodero said.

The atmosphere of a class depends on the teacher.

“There’s not a whole lot of patting on the back. The kids don’t get told ‘You’re doing it well’ unless they’re doing it well,”  Fodero said.

Sometimes a teacher can work in a small compliment but has to stay stern and keep the class moving to get through everything, Fodero said.

Tardiness is not contemplated. Usually, students arrive about 15 or 20 minutes early to warm up. There are rules about what students wear to class, and how they wear their hair.

Socializing is done before or after class. Students raise their hands if they have questions during. “Because dance is an expression through the body, through the movement. There’s nothing vocal going on,” Fodero said. Even the youngest students learn quickly to stay quiet. “You get that discipline pretty early on,” Fodero said.

“I have been told by some of my students I would make a good Army sergeant. I keep everybody in line and keep reminding them why we are here,” Fodero said.

Fodero’s found a change over the years in that some students expect to be pushed up the ranks faster.

“There’s still enough of us from that old school, we hope ...  that we can keep reminding kids that this is a very ancient art from,” Fodero said.

Students either need to buy into the process, or try a different form of dance or movement, she said.

Fodero’s found some parents don’t want the kind of sternness typical of ballet these days, but not many. “I think the parents are still looking for that kind of discipline and structure in an activity,” Fodero said.

Yet there’s something about ballet which keeps enough children interested in it. Sports as movement, for example, just doesn’t work for them as a way to express who they are.

Fodero said she was in her teens when Mullen took over the class she was in in Nashua. She remembers her as a strict, serious British woman, and the class became quite serious, too, Fodero said. “She’s mellowed,” Fodero said.

“Barbara wants her dancers to be the best they can be but they must also understand that it is a process, slow at times but oh so rewarding if you stick with it. There is no ‘instant gratification’ in ballet; if there were then I feel the beauty would be insincere and fleeting, the dancer must have patience with her/himself in order to achieve the movement and the lines the body must make, it is with that patience that the dancer then lures the audience, along with the music, into a wonderful place,” Fodero wrote in an e-mail.

“Barbara really did a lot for me,” Fodero said. It was Mullen who saw Fodero’s potential to dance professionally, she said. Fodero said she doesn’t have a “ballet body,” though, and Mullen pointed her to small companies with “diverse” body types.

Typically, ballet dancers are at their peak during college age, so they don’t go to college right after high school, Fodero explained.

Sarah Van Patten is now a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet. Her mother, Kathy Van Patten, owner and founder of The Movement Center of Boston, chose Mullen for her daughter’s first dance teacher.

Mullen includes education beyond dance in her classes. She said she tries to make students “aware of the music that they are dancing to, that they can identify it. That they are aware of the history and foundation of ballet.” She also likes them to be aware of anatomy and physiology, so they understand what they are trying to achieve, from the inside and outside. Mullen taught history of dance at UNH for about 10 years.

Aimée Peck is now a Dartmouth Medical School student. Peck studied ballet, tap and modern dance with Mullen from age 3 through high school. Her sister also studied with Mullen, and now dances with a professional company in Montreal, Peck wrote in an e-mail. “I attribute much of the discipline, independence, and courage I have used to get myself here to her and her particular style of teaching ... I often only half-jokingly tell people that my “strict ballet teacher” is the reason I am so honest and responsible. What I learned from Mrs. Mullen goes way beyond pirouettes and pointe work. She taught me how to be strong enough to reach the very best of what I am capable of. I know what it’s like to hold an arm out in 2nd position until my muscles scream, or sit in splits for minutes on end like she used to have us do — but that is how I can stand through six-hour surgeries these days and study like hell for tests when I need to,” Peck wrote.

Mullen produces ballets through New England Dance Ensemble, launched in 1986. NEDE presents The Nutcracker Saturday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m., at the Bedford High School Theater, 47B Nashua Road, Bedford (www.nede.org, 1-800-595-4tix).

Along with auditioned local dancers, it features professional guest artists. Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews, soloists with American Ballet Theatre in New York City, have worked with NEDE before. An ABT ballet master (who rehearses the company after choreography is set, Mullen said), Clinton Luckett, is performing with NEDE as Drosselmeyer. ABT II dancer Ty Gurfein also performs.

Kajiya, of Nagoya, Japan, became the first foreign student to train at Shanghai Ballet School in China at age 10. She won a prize to study at the National Ballet of Canada School in Toronto in 2000, and joined ABT’s Studio Company in 2001, moving her way up the ranks until she was chosen as a soloist in 2007. Matthews, born in Houston, received scholarships for summer programs, including at The Joffrey Ballet and the School of American Ballet. Matthews also became a soloist at ABT in 2007.


11/20/2008 Mary's new home

11/13/2008 Company, Secret garden and Doubt
11/6/2008 That Broadway sound
10/30/2008 Curtain calls
10/23/2008 Busy theaters
10/16/2008 All in one weekend
10/9/2008 Merrimack Rep at 20
10/2/2008 Curtain calls
9/25/2008 Curtain calls
9/18/2008 Stage sports
9/11/2008 Second Life to the rescue
9/4/2008 Curtain calls
8/28/2008 Tennessee Williams at Weirs
8/21/2008 Change for the moment
8/14/2008 Curtain calls
8/7/2008 Wicked experience
7/31/2008 Merry tales
7/24/2008 Review: the great outdoors
7/17/2008 Curtain calls
7/10/2008 Musical monsters
7/3/2008 Curtain calls
6/26/2008 Curtain calls
6/19/2008 Summer stock
6/12/2008 Curtain calls
6/5/2008 This one time, at drama camp...
5/29/2008 Curtain calls
5/22/2008 Making it big
5/15/2008 Curtain calls
5/8/2008 Curtain calls
5/1/2008 Forging ahead
4/24/2008 The Bard, condensed
4/17/2008 'Balance' in Bedford
4/10/2008 Curtain calls
4/3/2008 Singing for a cause
3/27/2008 These aren't recitals folks
3/20/2008 Albee at MRT
3/13/2008 Murder and rhinos
3/6/2008 Murder and rhinos
2/28/2008 The art of theater criticism
2/21/2008 Breaking the cycle
2/14/2008 Curtain Calls
2/7/2008 NH Theatre awards sixth year
1/31/2008 Elvis fans and ghost stories
1/24/2008 Building an audience
1/17/2008 Curtain Calls
1/10/2008 Fate of Annicchiarico
1/3/2008 A little confidence
12/27/2007 Stage notables in 2007
12/20/2007 If all they want for Christmas is two good seats ...
12/13/2007 Summer stock vs. southern NH
12/06/2007 Curtain Calls
11/29/2007 Curtain Calls
11/22/2007 Broadway composer and actress hit Granite State
11/15/2007 One-man play turns audience into students
11/8/2007 Curtain calls
11/1/2007 First times
10/25/2007 Curtain Calls
10/18/2007 Curtain Calls
10/11/2007 American History
10/04/2007 Active in the community
9/27/2007 Stringing single
9/20/2007 Curtain Calls
9/13/2007 Free range
9/6/2007 Curtain Calls
8/30/2007 Curtain Calls
8/23/2007 Curtain Calls
8/16/2007 Curtain Calls
8/9/2007 Curtain Calls
8/2/2007 That deaf, dumb and blind kid
7/26/2007 Potty humor
7/19/2007 Ease on down the road
7/12/2007 Jekyll vs. Hyde
7/5/2007 If it's free, it's for me
6/28/2007 Transformations
6/21/2007 Curtain calls
6/14/2007 No really, you'll get it
6/7/2007 Curtain calls
5/31/2007 Curtain calls
5/24/2007 Putting the camp in camp
5/17/2007 Curtain Calls
5/10/2007 Curtain Calls
5/3/2007 Curtain Calls
4/26/2007 Still going strong
4/19/2007 Vietnam the the Palace
4/12/2007 Confluence
4/5/2007 First look
3/29/2007 Reluctant star
3/15/2007 In a town far away
3/8/2007 Curtain calls
3/1/2007 Into the future
2/22/2007 But will it play in New Hampshire
2/15/2007 Curtain calls
2/8/2007 Family affair
2/1/2007 Curtain calls
1/25/2007 Curtain calls
1/18/2007 Curtain calls
1/11/2007 Curtain calls
1/4/2007 Fork in the road
12/28/2006 Standout performances of '06
12/21/2006 Curtain Calls
12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother