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Dancer Q&A: Klara Houdet

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This is a Q&A with Colorado Ballet Corps de Ballet Dancer Klara Houdet.

  1. Where are you from?
    Réunion Island (French Island)
  2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?
    Paris Opera Ballet School
    Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
    National Ballet of Canada
    American Ballet Theatre
  3. What did you do with your summer break?
    Took ballet classes almost every day
  4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?
    3 years old
    Loving how the studio smelled!
  5. What was your first ballet you remember attending? What do you remember about it?
    I can't remember the first ballet I saw, but I recall spending hours looking at ballet pictures of principals from Paris Opera.
  6. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.
    Many dancers inspire me, from principals to corps de ballet members. But the first name that comes to my mind is Mikhail Baryshnikov.
  7. Proudest moment in your ballet career?
    First place at an international ballet competition, but I wasn't proud, just extremely happy.
  8. Favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
    Jacopo Godani, Crystal Pite
  9. If you could get a lesson/class from anyone, it would be ________
    Taina Morales from the National Ballet of Cuba
  10. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
    'You are the master of yourself.'
  11. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?
    All
  12. Dream role?
    There are too many!
  13. If you could never dance again, what would you want your final role to be?
    Never thought of it and don't want to:-)
  14. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
    Surfing the Internet
  15. What are some of your indulgences?
    Chocolate
  16. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
    Nap and going through the choreography, remembering the last changes, notes...
  17. What production(s) are you most excited about this year?
    I'm excited about all of them. Happy to dance again the ones I already know, and looking forward to discover the ones I don't.
  18. What would you say to people who come to see the Colorado Ballet?
    Without you, we wouldn't be able to live our dream.
Klara Houdet by Allen Birnbach

Colorado Ballet soloist featured in national campaign for new PENTAX K-3 camera

Tuesday, October 22, 2013
This video features Colorado Ballet Soloist Dana Benton and Colorado Ballet photographer Allen Birnbach.

Dancer Q&A: Tracy Jones

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

This is a Q&A with Colorado Ballet Corps de Ballet Dancer Tracy Jones.

  1. Where are you from?
    Cork, Ireland
  2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?
    I trained at the Royal Ballet School in London. Before joining Colorado Ballet, I danced professionally with English National Ballet and Barcelona Ballet.
  3. What did you do with your summer break?
    I went to London to visit my family and then to Kentucky to visit my fiancee, Francisco Estevez's family.
  4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?
    I started at 5. I remember being really happy that I got to wear pink and run around the room like a fairy!
  5. What was your first ballet you remember attending? What do you remember about it?
    Giselle at the Cork Opera House with Ballet Theatre Ireland. My Mom was playing the role of Giselle's mother so I got to go backstage afterwards and I remember being so starstruck meeting real ballerinas.
  6. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.
    Darcey Bussel and Marianela Nunez from the Royal Ballet and Maria Kowroski and Wendy Whelan of New York City Ballet.
  7. Proudest moment in your ballet career?
    Dancing the lead in Angel Corella's String Sextet and performing Christopher Wheeldon's DGV at New York City Center.
  8. Favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
    Christopher Wheeldon
    Russell Ducker
  9. If you could get a lesson/class from anyone, it would be _______
    George Balanchine
  10. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
    Make every movement count down to the last detail.
  11. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?
    Favorite to dance would be Swan Lake and La Bayadere.
    Favorite to watch Romeo and Juliet and Manon.
  12. Dream role?
    Manon or Juliet
  13. If you could never dance again, what would you want your final role to be?
    Manon
  14. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
    I run my own business- Tulips by Tracy Ballet Skirts, so I spend most of my free time with that. 
  15. What are some of your indulgences?
    Sushi and Chocolate, oh and Swedish Fish!
  16. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
    I always like to make sure I have tested my shoes out on the stage before a performance but that’s it really.
  17. What production(s) are you most excited about this year?
    I am very excited about the whole season-Giselle is such a wonderful ballet to dance on stage and I have never done Cinderella before so it is going to be fun to be a part of. I haven't danced in The Nutcracker for a while as we didn't perform it in Spain which is where I have been for the past 5 Christmases so it will be nice to perform that again.
  18. What would you say to people who come to see the Colorado Ballet?
    Thank you for supporting us and I hope that you enjoy watching all of the very talented dancers here share this wonderful art form with you!
Tracy Jones by Francisco Estevez Photography

Interview with Adam Still about Giselle

Thursday, October 03, 2013


This video features rehearsal clips with Adam Still and Dana Benton.

Dancer Q&A: Morgan Buchanan

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

This is a Q&A with Colorado Ballet Corps de Ballet Dancer Morgan Buchanan.

  1. Where are you from?
    I was born in San Antonio, TX but I grew up in Houston.
  2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?
    I trained with Gilbert Rome and Victoria Vittum for several years, as well as Houston Ballet for 2 years.
  3. What did you do with your summer break?
    I had a very relaxing break! I went to a lot of concerts, visited my parents, went to the beach, and spent a lot of time going out with my friends. I also nannied, which I really enjoy.
  4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?
    I started dancing at 3, so I don't remember too much of the early years. I do remember loving being onstage from an early age.
  5. What was your first ballet you remember attending? What do you remember about it?
    I don't remember the first ballet I saw, but the first time I remember being truly inspired to be a professional was when I saw Nina Ananiashvili dance Kitri in a performance of Don Q at the Met. It was the first time I saw ABT live. I loved the energy of it all.
  6. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.
    Wendy Whelan is a huge inspiration to me. I saw her in rehearsal at VIDF a couple of years ago, and I don't think I've ever been so moved! Lauren Anderson has also been an inspiration to me. When I was a kid and she was still a principal at Houston Ballet, I heard her talking about a key lime pie she was going to eat when she got home. It was refreshing to hear something so normal! She was always so nice and personable to those who looked up to her. I try to emulate that around young dancers as well.
  7. Proudest moment in your ballet career?
    The student matinee for Peter Pan. I had never danced a leading role with Colorado Ballet before, and the kids really loved the show! The applause was deafening. I was so happy that I had made a well known children's character come to life for them!
  8. Favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
    Val Caniparoli. He made a point of correcting everyone, even the understudies! He taught me a lot about contemporary movement even in the short time he was here.
  9. If you could get a lesson/class from anyone, it would be ________
    Probably Baryshnikov. He is a legend. I'd be so nervous!
  10. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
    I've had a lot of great advice given to me. Most recently one of my mentors reminded me to always be humble and appreciate the opportunities I have been given!
  11. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?
    Theme and Variations has been my favorite ballet to dance so far. My favorite ballets to watch are Jiri Kylian's Petit Mort and John Cranko's Onegin.
  12. Dream role?
    Odile in Swan Lake
  13. If you could never dance again, what would you want your final role to be?
    I would want the role to be something that I had a deep emotional connection to.
  14. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
    I love hiking, cooking, and going to the movies at theaters like the Mayan, Esquire and Sie Center
  15. What are some of your indulgences?
    Happy hour, brunch, and iced americanos!
  16. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
    Not really. I do obsessively pop my knuckles and yawn a lot out of nervousness before I go on stage.
  17. What production(s) are you most excited about this year?
    I'm very excited for Giselle. I've never seen or danced it before.
  18. What would you say to people who come to see Colorado Ballet?
    Enjoy! And come back to see us!

 

Morgan Buchanan by Francisco Estevez Photography

Pointe Shoes by Sharon Wehner

Thursday, September 26, 2013

By Sharon Wehner, Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer

Pointe shoes.  They are to a ballerina what a bicycle is to a competitive cyclist, a pair of skates to a figure skater, a set of clubs to a golfer.  Both functional and aesthetic, they are an integral part of her artistry, indeed her life. There are dozens of brands of pointe shoes, and hundreds of sub-types within those brands.  They may all be pink and satin, but beyond the simple traditional exterior (which has maintained the same fundamental look since Marie Taglioni first donned a pair to appear as a weightless sylph in La Sylphide in 1832), they have evolved vastly in terms of materials and support.  Taglioni’s pointe shoes were little more than soft ballet slippers with extra darning on the tips and sides.  Modern pointe shoes, first worn by Anna Pavlova at the beginning of the last century, consist of two key structural components: a re-inforced box at the end to support the tips of the toes, and a firm shank along the sole to support the arch.  Materials used to construct them may include cardboard, paper, glue, fabric, and even fiberglass.  The various “models” of pointe shoes are meant to address a wide range of the ballerina’s needs and foot shape.  Imagine the variety of running shoes on the market today--pointe shoes are just as specialized.

Beyond this, a ballerina must prepare the shoe to her specific liking before she can dance in it.  A pointe shoe arrives without ribbons or elastic, because everyone likes to sew them differently depending on their needs.  They also must be broken-in to conform to each dancer’s foot.  Some people take a hammer to them, some bang them on concrete, some bend them in the crook of a door.  When I get a pair of shoes, I spend about 3 hours preparing them before I ever put them on my feet.  I darn the tips (a practice that some dancers prefer because it evens out the platform of the box, and also makes the shoe “quieter” and less slippery), I sew on ribbons and elastic, I cut the shanks on the inside so that it bends in the proper place of my arch, I cut the satin off the tips, I pour a teaspoon of good old-fashioned shellac on the inside and let it soak in overnight (this extends the life of the shoe), and lastly I place a small strip of Dr. Scholl’s foot and shoe padding on the inside to allow for the uneven length of my toes.  Throughout the lifespan of any one pair of shoes, I will continue to “doctor them up”--my lunch break is often spent re-darning the tips to get a few more “wearings” out of the pair. 

My first experience with pointe shoes harkens back to the age of 9.  I had just been accepted to the summer intensive program at San Francisco Ballet.  Nine is relatively young to start en pointe, but since the summer program required at least some pointework, my teachers started me early.  I had been dancing since the age of 3, so my feet, legs and core were strong enough to handle the shoes.  I remember going with my mother to get my first pair--it was like Christmas.  We purchased the smallest size possible.  The minute I got home, I disobeyed my teacher’s restrictions.  I put them on and danced around my bedroom, even took them out to the front yard and dirtied them up on the sidewalk.  It was magical. 

My first pointe class consisted of 15 minutes at the barre.  To some, it was a bit of torture--the painfully slow rises through the instep and toes, the quick jarring springs up over the arch, the burning repetition--releve, eleve, echappe, passe-- over and over again.  To me, it was heavenly.  Even my first blister, which left some of my friends sobbing after class, I cherished.  It was like a badge of courage, a rite of passage in the ballerina’s journey from childhood into adolescence.  Blisters, corns, bunions, bruised toenails, even losing toenails--they all came par for the course in the world of pointe.  They still do... Along with the first pointe class, a budding ballerina must learn to cope with all the ailments of the feet.  Tape, band-aids, corn pads, New Skin liquid bandage, Second Skin burn pads (for blisters), Ambesol numbing ointment, Neosporin, epsom salts, Betodine, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Tiger Balm, Arnica--all friends to the ballerina’s foot.  And as a professional, nothing beats a bucket of ice in which to plunge the feet after a hard day’s work.  I have one set up under my dinner table. 

A common question I get about pointe shoes is: “how long do they last?”  There is no short answer, because different ballets require different levels of hardness, or what a ballerina refers to as “deadness”.  On a scale of 1-10, a brand new pair of shoes would be a 1 in terms of deadness.  For a ballet like Swan Lake, I use three different pairs for each act.  Act Two requires a shoe that is about 4 on the level of “deadness,” Act Three requires a harder 2 to withstand the 32 fouettes, Act Four can suffice with a softer 7 or 8.  Of course this will be different for every ballerina.  I have known some dancers who will change their shoes in the wings during their partner’s two minute variation, just so that she will have the perfect pair for her next dance. 

As you can see, pointe shoes are a very personal and specialized part of a ballerina’s career.  In her lifetime, she will spend more hours sewing and preparing shoes, caring for the aches and pains of the feet, and training her body to withstand the rigors of pointework-- than she actually will performing on stage.  It is a love-hate relationship that a ballerina has with her shoes.  But most ballerinas would agree that the sacrifices made to create the effect of being light on her feet are well worth it. Pointe shoes are part of what gives the ballerina her effervescence and mystical weightlessness.  Like Victoria Page in The Red Shoes, dancing en pointe is not just dancing, it is living.  And, to me at least, a life without pointe shoes would feel just a bit less magical.

Dancer Q&A: Maria Mosina

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This is a Q&A with Colorado Ballet Principal Maria Mosina.

  1. Where are you from?
    Moscow, Russia
  2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?
    Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, danced at Bolshoi Ballet – Grigorovich Ballet Company
  3. What did you do with your summer break?
    I had a family vacation in Sarasota Florida, and then I taught in Chicago in Salt Creek Ballet School at the Summer Intensive Program.  I also taught at Colorado Ballet’s Summer Intensive.
  4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?
    I knew I would be a professional dancer at 10 years old, I went to a professional Academy.  I remember in the 2nd grade, I performed La Fill Mal Garde on stage.  Only the students perform in that ballet and it was at the State Kremlin Palace.  I remember dancing with real makeup and costumes and when the curtain opened and I saw the audience, it took my breath away.  This was like a fairy tale.
  5. What was your first ballet you remember attending? What do you remember about it?
    I saw many of them on TV on national television, my first impression was of The Nutcracker.  The story is a little different story in Russia than here. It was closer to the original Hoffmann story.  The lead ballerina was Ekaterina Maximova. I saw a lot of performances; my mother took me to ballets like Cipollino with onions and tomatoes.  I also remember Giselle, Swan Lake and La Bayadère on television.
  6. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.
    Ekaterina Maximova is my favorite ballerina.  I like some ballerinas in some ballets and some in others.  I can get inspiration from other ballerinas, depending what I’m watching.
  7. Proudest moment in your ballet career?
    There is always something new, and in that moment you are proud, so it is continuous.
  8. Favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
    This is hard to choose just one because each choreographer is unique.  You always find something new for yourself, for your body, for your soul and movements.  Working with a choreographer is like when you open a new book and you experience something new.
  9. If you could get a lesson/class from anyone, it would be ________
    I admire my Russian teachers, but I would love to have taken a class with Mr. Balanchine.  Definitely with someone from the past.
  10. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
    You will become ballet dancer, ballet artist and the first part of your profession is to give happiness and joy to people.  This inspires me.
  11. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?
    It is hard to choose. To watch, everything classical.  To dance, you are always growing as a classical ballet dancer and you get to work with new choreographers and contemporary dances.  I like story ballets, but I also like to dance ballets like Balanchine where you are dancing something other than the story, like the music.  You can always find something enjoyable and loveable.  I just love to be on stage.
  12. Dream role?
    Once again, it is hard to choose.  For example, when I dance Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, I really get into the character, but I also love dancing ballets like Balanchine’s Theme & Variations, where you are really thinking about how you move.  Like Martha Graham technique is different, your muscles work differently with different techniques; you understand yourself and your body even more after dancing these kind of roles.
  13. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
    I have a daughter and my first priority is to be a mother and I love spending time with her.  I love my family.  In this role of mother, it is very interesting and important to me.  It has helped me to rise to another level in my dance career.  You start to see the world in a different way when you become a parent.  You see the world differently.  It is my dream to someday dance with my daughter on stage.
  14. What are some of your indulgences?
    You have to treat yourself with healthy stuff because we have so many hours rehearsing.  Overall, I try to eat healthy and hydrate for high altitude and to take care of my muscles.  I take supplements to take care of my muscles, joints, and my body.
  15. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
    You have to come earlier if you are dancing principal part, get makeup, hair done properly, and it can take two hours sometimes to prepare for a performance.  Then you have to warm up.  When you are doing the makeup, crown, hair, you start to get into the role.  Go to the stage, get into your shoes.  For contemporary stuff, you have to go through the steps, listen to music on your headphones.
  16. What production(s) are you most excited about this year?
    I am happy and glad to dance everything this season.  I don’t know how many times I have danced The Nutcracker, but I always find something different.  It is never perfection; you can always improve yourself for every production every year.  And, it is always exciting to dance something new.
  17. What would you say to people who come to see the Colorado Ballet?
    Audiences are different, some of them know the performances and they naturally get this form of art.  But for people who are not as used to it, I think every type of audience can find a program that will match their thoughts and wishes.  Everyone should come to see us.  Ballet is deeper, it is something exciting, and when you come to the theater you see there is more to it, especially with Giselle.  In Giselle, you see the philosophy of forgiveness and that love can save your life.

Maria Mosina rehearses Act II of Giselle

Interview with Francisco Estevez about Giselle

Monday, September 23, 2013


This video has rehearsal clips featuring artists of Colorado Ballet rehearsing Giselle.

Interview with Maria Mosina about Colorado Ballet's Giselle

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This video includes clips from Colorado Ballet's 2006 production of "Giselle," featuring artists of Colorado Ballet.

Dancer Q&A: Chandra Kuykendall

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
This is a Q&A with Colorado Ballet Principal Chandra Kuykendall.
  1. Where are you from?
    Parker, CO
  2. Where did you train/dance before coming to Colorado Ballet?
    I trained at Colorado Ballet.
  3. What did you do with your summer break?
    I went to Paris, Amsterdam and London with my husband. We saw performances by Paris Opera Ballet and Royal Ballet School.
  4. What age did you first start dancing? What do you remember from your first class?
    Age 6. I don't remember my first class I just always remember dancing.
  5. What was your first ballet you remember attending? What do you remember about it?
    I think the first real ballet I attended I was in. A mouse in Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker.
  6. Who are your ballet role models? Dancers that inspire you.
    My favorite ballerina is Altynai Asylmuratova from Kirov. Her technique and her artistry are so inspiring.
  7. Proudest moment in your ballet career?
    Being promoted to Principal.
  8. Favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
    Amy Seiwart, Jessica Lang, Edwaard Liang
  9. If you could get a lesson/class from anyone, it would be ________
    Asylmuratova
  10. Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
    Don't give up.
  11. Favorite ballets to dance? Which are favorite to watch?
    To dance: Swan Lake, Giselle, Bruch Violin Concerto
    To watch: Swan Lake, Giselle, In the Middle Somewhat Elevated 
  12. Dream role?
    Odette/Odile - lucky to have danced
  13. If you could never dance again, what would you want your final role to be?
    I don't like this question but would probably be the Purple Girl in Bruch Violin Concerto
  14. What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
    Spend time with my son and my husband.
  15. What are some of your indulgences?
    Vanilla ice cream.
  16. Do you have any pre-performance routines/rituals?
    Too many to list! I used to be worse, now most are out of habit and not superstition.
  17. What production(s) are you most excited about this year?
    Definitely Giselle. It was the first full length ballet I performed so it has a special place in my heart.
  18. What would you say to people who come to see the Colorado Ballet?
    Please come see us! We have a wonderful season ahead!

Chandra Kuykendall with her husband and son

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