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Yoga for ballet dancers - International Yoga Day is today

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
By Sharon Wehner, Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer
  

Yoga has been a great adjunct to my training as a dancer in so many ways... It is a great form of cross-training not only for the body, but mind and spirit as well.

   
I started yoga years ago, because it felt good to slow down in my body and breathe and do something that felt physical, yet not based on an aesthetic goal.  In ballet, we are always striving to meet an external expectation, because it is ultimately a performance art.  Although a dancer is expressing themselves from the inside-out as an artist, as a performer, they still have an obligation to meet audience pressures and expectations, as well as technical and aesthetic demands from the choreography.  In yoga, the focus is more internal.
  
Although alignment and form are important in terms of health and "improvement," the ultimate purpose is to create greater harmony within the body, mind and spirit, regardless of how you look.  You get to explore your own personal "edge," but without any judgement or expectation (except your own, which becomes a learning experience in its own right).
  
The practice of yoga goes far beyond the physical asana (postures).  A person can practice yoga on many levels, depending on how deep they are desiring to go with it in terms of physical, emotional, and spiritual commitment.  It really stems from a body of ancient Wisdom Teachings that can be explored and practiced in everyday life, not just on your yoga mat.  As someone who has danced her entire life, I would say that the same is true about dancing, if you choose to take that perspective.  I love any practice that involves a commitment to challenge and explore the interface of internal and external landscapes of our creative spirits, whether it manifests through asana postures, meditation, spinning 32 times on pointe, or embodying Juliet. 
  
I became a teacher, partly because I wanted to explore and understand the deeper aspects of yoga myself.  Yoga goes very deep, in terms of spirituality, and very wide, in terms of styles and permutations.  You can practice yoga with the goal of increasing health, or with the goal of expanding your consciousness, and everything in between.  And all are valid.
 
Ultimately, I was interested in helping people find peace and healing through a physical practice that is very accessible to most people, if they have a teacher who is sensitive to their individual needs. Just being able to move or sit, and pay attention to your breathe while doing so, is a powerful yogic practice.  So many people think you have to be experienced, strong, or flexible to do yoga, or even to dance.  As a teacher, I like to show people that all these assumptions are myths. Everybody has an inner dancer within them, and everyone has an inner wise yogi, both flexible and strong.

Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Sharon Wehner teaches yoga

 

 

 


Road to Recovery: Yosvani Ramos

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We follow Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Yosvani Ramos on his Road to Recovery.   His love for ballet is the thing that has guided him throughout this experience.

Day in the Life with Arianna Ciccarelli

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

It takes years and years of training and discipline, and a lifetime of passion and dedication to become a professional ballerina.” says Arianna Ciccarelli, Corps de Ballet dancer. She has been dancing since she was 7 years old but didn’t decide to try ballet until 11 after watching a movie about Kirov Ballet in which she fell in love with the beauty and discipline of classical ballet.  

Step behind the scenes of a Day in the Life of Arianna Ciccarelli. 

KH: What’s your morning routine before you get to the studio?

AC: I normally get up at 6:45am and go straight to the coffee pot! I don’t like to eat a huge breakfast before class, but I need something substantial to get me started on such a physically demanding day. I like to make avocado toast or a rice cake with peanut butter and bananas.

KH: Walk me through your day once you get to the studio.

AC: Once I get to the studio, I get changed into my rehearsal clothes and go straight to the PT room. I normally like to do 15-30 minutes of Pilates before class. I adjust my workouts to my rehearsal schedules (if I have a long day, I will do much shorter of a workout). After Pilates, I head into the studio to stretch and prepare my pointe shoes for the day!

 

KH: What workouts are you doing during Pilates and why are they important for you?

AC: Every dancer’s body is different, and we all have different things we need to work on! Personally I like to do a lot of ab work and jumping exercises. I struggle a lot with my jumps, so working on them in Pilates is a great way for me to improve coordination and strength.

KH: Tell me more about technique class

AC: We have technique class every day for an hour and 15 minutes. The combinations change every day, but we are working through the same sequences of steps. Even though this is a professional company, we all need to work on keeping our technique clean. Technique class is also our warm up for the rehearsals that follow!

 

KH: You rehearse 6 or more hours a day, how do you stay motivated and focused?

AC: We learn ballets and perform them so quickly, there is barely time to space out. There are so many little details to learn in just a few weeks! Of course, like anyone else we get distracted, but we all love this profession so we are motivated from our own wants and needs to improve.

KH: What do you do during your breaks?

AC: If I have a break, I like to put my feet up and relax a little. Rest is extremely important for dancers and athletes alike. Our job is extremely physically demanding, and if we don’t rest there is a much higher risk for injury! If my body is feeling really fatigued, I will try to schedule a physical therapy or massage appointment.

 

KH: What is your night routine after a long day at the studio?

AC: I typically go home around 6:30 p.m. and prepare a substantial dinner. I am also taking college courses, so I give myself some time after dinner for school work.

KH: How do you unwind and prepare for another day?

AC: If I am really sore, I like to roll out my muscles or take a hot bath. I also try to make time for seeing friends or talking to my family!

10 Questions with Tyler Rhoads

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

From his favorite book to why he dances, you will fall in love with his charming personality. Get to know Colorado Ballet dancer Tyler Rhoads.

Darning with Arianna Ciccarelli

Friday, May 26, 2017

Corps de ballet dancer, Arianna Ciccarelli shows us how she darns her pointe shoes.

2017 Artist Award: Maria Mosina

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation presented their 2017 Artist Award to recently retired Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Maria Mosina at their awards luncheon last week.  Here is a video highlighting Maria and all of her amazing accomplishments, which made her so deserving of the Artist Award.  Congratulations Maria!

Ballet Off Season with Tyler Rhoads

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tyler RhoadsBy Kendra Harris,

After a record-breaking season packed with four incredible productions, you can imagine a dancer needs time to recoup and relax. I sat down with Tyler Rhoads to talk about how he spends his summers off.

What were some highlights for you this season?

I would say one of my highlights from this season with Colorado Ballet would be Nutcracker. During the last week of shows, I got really sick and I felt so guilty for being sick and not being able to come in for a couple of days. Whenever I came back, everyone was so supportive and encouraging and really helped me not feel as guilty and motivated me to get back out there as quickly as possible to help support my friends and coworkers so that we could all put on the best show possible. 

What did you learn about yourself this year?

I learned that I’m very risk averse and sometimes I need to not be so afraid and just need to go out and take a rise regardless of how it turns out. Sometimes if you’re too afraid to take the risk you end up holding yourself back in the long run. 

What are you plans this summer?

I’m going to be doing a few guestings in Texas, Arizona and locally at Zikr Dance Ensemble so that will keep me pretty busy dancing and hopefully that will keep me. We’re going to be traveling some, Sean and I are going on a train ride to San Francisco because we heard it’s supposed to be really pretty going through the mountains and then we’re also going to Hawaii to Maui for a week so that should be fun.

10 Questions with Domenico Luciano

Monday, May 15, 2017

From the last movie he cried watching to why he dances, step into the world of Principal Dancer Domenico Luciano.

Maria Mosina wins Bonfils-Stanton Award

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Recently-retired Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Maria Mosina is one of three Colorado arts leaders that will be honored at the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation's Annual Awards Luncheon.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation believes extraordinary arts and leadership are essential to building a vibrant Colorado. The Annual Awards Program recognizes significant contributions by remarkable Coloradans as Artists, through their Community Service in the Arts, and who impact Science and Medicine using the Arts. This year’s honorees will receive a $35,000 award for their exceptional work, inspiration to others and dedication to driving Colorado’s arts and culture to new heights.

Colorado ballerina Maria Mosina is this year’s Artist Award honoree. Born in Moscow, Maria has been a professional dancer for 26 years, performing every major role in all the great ballets and appearing on stages around the world including Europe, America, Africa, and Asia. Her most enduring impact, however, has been on Colorado and the Colorado Ballet. 

As the principal ballerina for Colorado Ballet, Maria has delighted audiences and inspired young dancers for 21 seasons. Since her arrival in Denver in 1995, Maria’s artistry, professionalism and her ability to transpose a role on stage have set her apart from other ballerinas, and has helped to make Colorado Ballet truly exceptional. Maria brings a performance level to the stage in Denver that one would only find in major ballet companies in cities around the world.

Retiring at the end of the 2016/17 season, Maria will move into a teaching and coaching role, one that she first embraced during Colorado Ballet’s Summer Intensive Program in 1996. As Maria says, “I will dance forever, but now is the time to give my knowledge and experience to younger generations of dancers. I wish to mentor others as many mentored me over the years. It’s time for younger dancers to step in and dance for the Colorado audience.” Maria is an active ballet instructor throughout the United States, and has participated as a master teacher and judge for the Youth American Grand Prix. 

Maria has been highlighted in numerous magazine articles, and was a featured dancer on the cover of Dance Magazine. She graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia and holds a bachelor's degree in methodology and pedagogy from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography.  

The Community Service in the Arts Award goes to Stephen Seifert, who has been a visionary and passionate leader in the Denver arts community for nearly 30 years. Bonfils-Stanton Foundation will present The Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program at University of Colorado’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities with the Science, Medicine and the Arts Award. The Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program is an intellectual space, cultural site and accessible resource for the campus, for colleagues and for the community.

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation will honor the three individuals during their 32nd annual Awards Luncheon on May 19.

Beyond The Barre: Francisco Estevez

Friday, May 05, 2017

By Kendra Harris

Francisco Estevez is a man of many talents. On top of being a soloist with Colorado Ballet, he impressively balances being married while running a successful photography business and being the proud parent of two dogs. In between the season ending and him heading into the summer, I sat down with Francisco to get to know him more Beyond the Barre.

*This interview has been edited from its original format for structure and clarity.

KH: Let’s talk about some of your favorites. What is your favorite restaurant?

FE: It’s a tossup between Fruition and Rioja. I just discovered Rioja on Larimer Square a couple of weeks ago and it’s very good.

KH: What’s your favorite movie?

FE: I don’t think I have one, I go through phases. Right now I like LaLa Land but before that I liked Star Wars, especially “The Return of The Jedi.”

KH: What’s your favorite book?

FE: “Being Wrong.” It’s written by my best friend's aunt, she used to work for the New Yorker and she wrote a book about the tendencies of people to not admit their wrong and how that’s very limiting for a society.

KH: What would your last meal on earth be?

FE: Pepperoni Pizza!

KH: What are your non-dance hobbies?

FE: Going out to restaurants, especially in Denver because of the variety and high quality and photography. I don’t really have much time for actual hobbies but I like drawing a lot and painting.

KH: What is the biggest misconception about being a professional ballet dancer?

FE: People think we do something else as well, that we must have an outside job to support ourselves, that’s not true and necessary. We’re fortunate enough to be in a company that supports of us well. I think people always see it as something you do and then you move on because it’s not your real job. It is our job and we do get paid for it. On a lighter note, I think the second most misconstrued thing is that men go on pointe, we don’t at all unless you’re in Trockadero, which is an all-male company that does pointe.

KH: If I gave you $100,000, what would you do with it?

FE: I’d buy all the camera equipment that I wanted. I’d buy something nice for my wife, I’d donate to a charity we both believed in, definitely something to do with animals or homeless people or refugees. Then we’d have to see what we’d do if there was any left over.

KH: Three words to describe yourself?

FE: Passionate, curious and sometimes stubborn

KH: If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you be doing?

FE: I would probably be doing something either in economics or architecture, maybe law. But once I stop doing this career I think I’ll go into photography full-time.

KH: What would you tell your younger self?

FE: To not be so independent. Family is very important and I think, especially in this career if you dedicate yourself from a young age, you tend to leave home early and that requires a lot of independence and growing up early. Sometimes I wish that I had not stayed home longer to be with my family but had that relationship a little bit longer so that I felt tethered to them. It’s not that I don’t love them or anything like that, I do and I enjoy spending time with them but it’s easy for me to be on my own and I sometimes go a long time without talking to them and I feel bad about that. Yet, it also feels normal to me so I’d tell myself to make that a priority and get in the habit of constantly being in communication with my family especially in this career because you’re most likely not going to be in the same city.

KH: What are five of your favorite things?

FE:

  1. Cameras
  2. Movies
  3. Trying different foods
  4. Puppies are a big one
  5. Traveling.

KH: What is your favorite destination?

FE: I really like Europe a lot. London’s nice for short visits because it’s very gloomy, but it’s nice to have the culture and everything’s very organized. It seems like they have their priorities in order. Spain will always have a special place in our hearts, that’s where my wife and I met. And also, my home town Ecuador.

KH: What’s your ritual before a performance?

FE: I don’t really have one. I try to steer away from rituals. I don’t like hyping it up for myself because I like to be relaxed. I used to get really worked up about it and it didn’t help, if anything it made things worse on stage. I tried one time to be relaxed about it and my performances started going a lot better. And I have a lot more fun on stage and less headache beforehand.

KH: What do you love about Denver?

FE: I like the weather and that it feels like its growing. You can feel that the energy and city is expanding, it feels like there’s a lot of potential for projects and things that may happen. I think that’s exciting because it doesn’t feel that it’s dead or standing still. I also like the little microcosms of different neighborhoods, every neighborhood is different and it’s nice to have that type of variety in one city. I also like the proximity of the mountains as well.

KH: Words to live by?

FE: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think that’s important. I try to be invested in things not to just be a passenger. Be active in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Try to be genuine and nice.

KH: What are your summer plans?

FE: We’re (him and his wife Tracy Jones) going to travel somewhere, maybe Europe but we haven’t decided yet. We teach ballet in different summer programs, so we’ll be traveling around doing that and then for five weeks every summer we work with a company that does contemporary and religious dance. Other than that, I’ll fill my summer up with photography work.

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