Believe it or not, in a few short weeks the holidays will be upon us and the first half of the dance year will be coming to an end. You may be inundated with winter performance schedules now, but it is a good time to reflect and look at all of the progress you’ve made and how you will take what you’ve learned into the new year. We caught up with April Ball, leading soloist with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, and asked her advice on how young dancers can get to the next level in their training.
Watch and learn
We dancers spend a lot of time (and I mean A LOT of time) looking in the mirror. While this is very important, don’t forget to watch the other students. As soon as you finish a combination, watch the next group to get ideas about things to work on. You can try to copy the things you like about other dancers, but also look for things you don’t like. Just make sure you don’t copy those! We can learn from both the good and the bad.
Respect is a big deal in ballet. Respecting your teacher by paying attention will show that you care and that you are really trying. It allows your teachers to help you learn instead of making them just fight for your attention. It will also help you avoid careless injuries which are never fun.
Look out for the little things
We all know that we can point our feet more, lift our legs higher, or do more pirouettes. Of course, we should try to improve these things. But, to make it to the next level, we also have to look out for the little things. Trying to dance with the music, stretching your feet when you run off the floor after a combination, using your head – these are all things that really make a difference between looking schoolish and looking like a professional.
You might not get as much time in the studio as you may like, but you can still improve your dancing every day. Find ways to mix ballet into your every-day life. You can do relevés while you brush your teeth. Bored in school? Try to do some foot exercises under your desk. Stuck in the car? Daydream about choreographing your own ballet. Every little bit helps.
Most importantly, have fun
Ballet is difficult, and it is really easy to be hard on yourself. Don’t let yourself get too frustrated. Make sure that you mix hard work with some fun too. Make some funny dance videos with your friends or find somewhere to be alone and dance however you want. If you are like me, you are going to be dancing for a long time, so ENJOY IT!
April Ball studied dance at the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the School of America Ballet (New York). Her principal professors included Roberto Munoz, Jean Gedeon, Tatiana Terekova and Sergei Berejnoi. Ball joined Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo under the direction of Jean-Christophe Maillot. In addition to her great technical and performance abilities, her personality makes her a leading soloist. Ball was a principal dancer at the Boston Ballet where she performed most of the classical repertoire including Swan Lake (Odette/Odile), La Bayadère (Nikiya), Le Corsaire (Medora), Sleeping Beauty (The Lilac Fairy), Giselle (Myrtha), The Nutcracker (The Sugar Plum Fairy), before her temperament and curiosity led her to explore other creative fields. She joined the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. With these companies, she performed choreographies by George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Mark Morris, Rudi Van Danzig, Agnes de Mille, Paul Taylor and Kenneth MacMillan.