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Prima Ballerinas

Prima Ballerinas

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

As young dancers we spend our days dreaming of taking center stage. We dream of joining one of the big

and flashy companies and of dancing in beautiful theaters all over the world. And more importantly, we

dream of becoming prima ballerinas who are loved by all. We dream of becoming one of the amazing

dancers that we stalk on YouTube until the wee hours of the morning. For each generation of young

dancers this cast of elite primas changes. When our parents were children, this cast consisted of

Patricia McBride, Sylvie Guillem, Darcy Bussell, and Gelsey Kirkland and many others. While our

generation knows of these dancers and recognizes them for their immense talent and skill, we can now

acknowledge a whole different roster of dancers. So, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking

about, below is a compiled list of our generation’s greatest prima ballerinas.


19e5q5gghr3w8jpgMisty Copeland

Definitely one of the most popular dancers

of this era, this new principal at American

Ballet Theatre is known for the athleticism

in her dancing. She has made ballet a more

widely recognized art form through ad

campaigns with Under Armour. She also

has written a book about her struggles with

diversity in the dance world and had a documentary made about her life that came out this past year. (photo credit: Under Armour)


Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck is a young principal at New York City Ballet. She is a

homegrown Balanchine dancer who trained at School of

American Ballet until graduating into the company and swiftly

moving up the ranks. She shows great grace and control when

she dances and is a joy to watch onstage. But she doesn’t just

dance she also took to the stage as an actor/dancer in the

musical Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

(photo credit: Nathan Sayers)



tumblr_n5odg2TUTY1shafico4_r1_500Maria Kochetkova

By far one of the shortest prima ballerinas of our time, Maria

Kochetkova is a principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet.

She attended the Bolshoi Ballet School and graduated to

perform with the Royal Ballet and then with SFB. She is

known for her somewhat quirky style and her immense

presence on the stage. This year, she joined ABT as a guest

principal and will perform with the company throughout

their upcoming season. (photo credit: Erik Tomasson)


imgresSvetlana Zakharova

Svetlana Zakharova is one of the greats. She trained with the

Bolshoi and is now one of their principal dancers. She is known

for her insane flexibility and amazing feet. She has flawless

technique and beautiful lines. Not only that, but she has a child

and can still dance like no other. She first premiered with the

Mariinsky Ballet and has danced leading roles with many major

companies around the world.  (photo credit: Mario Veloso)


Natalia Osipova

Natalia Osipova is another notable Russian

Ballerina. She is known for her boldness and

confidence when she dances. She has danced

as a principal with many major ballet companies

including Bolshoi Ballet, ABT, the Mikhailovsky

Ballet, and most recently the Royal Ballet. Natalia

is an amazing ballerina who keeps her audience’s

eyes glued to her the entire time she is on the stage.

(photo credit: Helen Maybanks)


If you haven’t heard of any of these beautiful dancers you’ve been missing out. I would recommend

looking them up on YouTube and watching these beautiful ladies work their magic. With each

generation of dancers our understanding of the body, and of the technique, increases which means

that each year the dancers get better and better. Our generation’s dancers are setting the “barre” pretty

high for the many primas to come.

~ Melanie Z.

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Preparation for Summer Intensive

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

Preparation for Summer Intensive can be a somewhat daunting task. Not only

do you have to worry about common items; such as clothes, toiletries, and detergent

for laundry, but you also have to make sure you have everything you need for a

successful dancing day. Over the years I have accumulated a must have list of items

that are the first 5 things that get put in my suitcase when I pack for the summer.

Hopefully this will help with your packing and will make your summer experience a

more enjoyable one.


1. Thera-band

Since you are going to be doing a whole lot more dancing than your body is used to,

you will probably experience some aches and pains during the first week or so. Do

not panic, this is perfectly normal. After so much dancing our bodies tend to get

pretty stressed out. One of my tactics for combatting these pains is to help

strengthen my muscles. There are so many exercises you can do to help strengthen

your feet, your rotators, your inner thighs, pretty much anything with your thera-

band. This will help your body accumulate faster and will make the aches and pains

go away.


2. Tennis ball

After doing so many exercises with your thera-band and dancing all day, your

muscles will definitely need to chill out. Rolling out with a tennis ball after a long

day of dance can prevent cramps and soreness the next day. It’s so easy to just sit on

a tennis ball to release your hip while your watching some TV or chilling with your

roommates. One of my favorite things to do is to put two tennis balls in a sock and to

give yourself a spine massage. It may hurt a lot while your doing it, like a lot, but

your muscles will thank you the next day.


3. Ice packs

Summer intensives are very intense by definition. Your days will probably include

more hours on pointe than your toes are used to. One of my favorite techniques for

combatting swollen feet and aching toes is to keep some ice packs at the dorm to ice

your feet with at night. Some people choose to put their feet in ice buckets for the

same effect. But since that makes me cry like a baby most of the time, I use ice packs

as a gentler alternative.


4. Water bottle

Wherever you are going for the summer, whether the middle of the country or the

east coast, your going to want to stay super hydrated. Your water bottle will be your

best friend. Whether you are going to class or out on an activity on the weekend, you

will want to bring your water bottle with you everywhere. Most studios are

equipped with water fountains where you can refill your bottle so I suggest not

bringing a giant one, that way its easier to carry around with you.


5. Warm ups

One of my favorite things to do during a summer intensive is to get to the studios

early before my first class of the day. This gives you time to hang out with your

friends, stretch, and prepare for the day. While your walking around the studios or

stretching you’re going to want to have things to throw on over your leotard and

tights. A sweater, some sweats, a jacket, a pair of socks, pretty much anything works

just make sure that it will keep your muscles warm.

Over the years I have learned these techniques from older dancers so I hope that by

imparting this knowledge onto you, your summer experience will be better for it. I

hope this helps make your summers amazing and happy dancing!


~Melanie Z.

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Tissue Letter

Tissue Letter

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

Dear California Ballet tissue boxes,

We’ve had a long journey together. Year after year your black and white flower print and sleek blue edges have kept me company in the studios. When I was sick and sniffley, you were there for me. It hasn’t been an easy journey though. I’ve been there for you when you were flattened. Squished. Handled. Used only has a prop when Ms. Judy, or Ms. Denise is demonstrating concepts to us. Used only to be shoved into the tips of sweaty, stinky pointe shoes. Used only as center marks and as cleaning supplies. Not fully understood for your inner genius. You have sat patiently and solemnly watching over the empty studios while we were away. Awaiting our return and the laughter and music that came with it. You understand your role and accept your responsibilities gracefully. You have become a permanent fixture in our studios. What would we do without you as our careful watch dogs? Even so, you remain without a true place in society. Is your home atop the pianos, or would you prefer to live atop the CD player? You are still undecided, tossed back and forth. When your insides ring empty and we go to replace you with a cousin, a tear comes to our eyes. So I thank you for all that you have done without us even asking. I thank you for protecting our delicate and swollen toes from blisters. I thank you for marking our way as we dance and for everything else that you do for us. Thank you.

Much love,

The Students of California Ballet


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Ballet Terminologie

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

Ballet is such a special gift. It gives us the tools to communicate our thoughts with anyone. It is a universal language, one that can be understood by all. Of course, that is not the case with the language of ballet terms. The French terminology give us a hint about ballet’s ornate history.

This can be hard. Like, really hard. Learning what all of these words mean in French and which steps they refer to can be a huge challenge. One of the most difficult things, at least for me, was learning how to spell them. So, in order to help with others quest to spelling victory, I have compiled a list of the most easily misspelled ballet words.

allongé (aa-lohn-jay’) When I first spelled this one out I was quite certain there was an “e” at the beginning there. This word, which means, “to draw out” can refer to a port de bra or to a penche (at least I can spell those words right.)

chaîné (shah-nay’) Surprisingly enough I don’t think we ever learned the definition for this word which means “to link together.” But please tell me I wasn’t the only one who thought that we could spell this one with an “s.”

cinq (sank) By the spelling you probably have no idea what this word is, I certainly didn’t, but I’ll give you a hint it means “five.” Yes you read that correctly, there is a “q” at the end there. It’s like they’re purposefully making this as hard as possible for us.

croisé (krawh-zay’) When I initially attempted to spell this one I came up with something like “quaze”…? I wasn’t even close. Croisé, which means, “to cross” is the position where your legs appear to be crossed from the front. At least the definition is easy to remember.

entrelacé (ahn-truh-lah-say’) This word is barely used around the Cal Bal studios but I thought it was worthy of the list. It means, “to criss-cross” and is basically a fancy word for a tour jeté.

saute (soh-tay) And bringing up the rear is my all time favorite. This one, which means “to jump”, is just confusing. Why couldn’t they have gone with a simple “sotay”?

I hope these definitions and spelling tips will help you to better understand the steps and the heritage of our great art.

~Melanie Z.

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Summer Intensives

Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

As summer draws to a close and summer intensives finish there

are so many things going on. If you have been away for the whole

summer coming back and showing everyone what you learned while

you were gone can prove to be a very intimidating task. There are some

things that you should keep in mind while readjusting to your normal

dance schedule.



One of the reasons that we train at California Ballet is for the

incredible and diverse training we are provided. While you were away,

wherever you went, they probably had their own “quirks” or specific

ways of doing things that are more than likely a little different than how

we do things here at Cal Bal. Its important to remember everything that

you learned while you were away while also coming back and dancing

the way the teachers at home prefer.



This might seem a little silly but when I first came back it was one

of the hardest things to adapt to. I have noticed throughout the years

that most summer intensives, weather you dance on college campus or

in school building, have grey marley in their studios. Coming back to

Cal Bal’s black floors can be quite a change. It may throw you off a little

for your first few classes back but you will adjust quickly.



This isn’t something that you need to readjust to but I feel like it’s

important to say. Most summer intensives have long days of dancing

with conditioning, yoga, or Pilates classes which put you in tip top shape

when you come home. Obviously, it’s not possible for most of us to

maintain a summer schedule during the year but if you keep stretching

every day and work really hard in your classes, then you can retain

more of what you accomplished during the summer.

Summer intensives are one of the highlights of the year for most

of us. But what really makes then awesome is coming home and seeing

how much you’ve gained and improved in such a short time.


~ Melanie Z.

CBS student and Junior Company member

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Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

During class the greatest prize and the hardest challenge you can receive is a correction. A lot of the time the teacher will call out improvements we can make while we’re dancing. Or, if it’s important, they will stop the music and explain to us exactly what they want us to fix. But a dancer’s hardest task comes when you have to take these corrections and apply them to your dancing. A lot of the time the corrections are ones we’ve already heard and have just forgotten about. In order to remind us, our teachers will come up with phrases that they’ll yell to help us remember our corrections. Each teacher has their own set of expressions that they use during class. Here is some of our favorite Cal Bal phrases and the reasons behind them:

1. “Use your skin muscles!” This famous line is one of Ms. Maxine’s favorites. She loves to yell this to us when our bodies are soggy or we’re falling out of balances. For a while we wondered what exactly was a skin muscle until one fateful day she shared her secret. We all guessed there was a set of muscles that she liked to refer to as our skin muscles but were surprised to find out that she had made it up. She told us that one day in class she yelled it at her students and their dancing became tighter and sharper so she drafted the phrase into her repertoire.

2. “Don’t kill Cheddar!” This remark is one we’ve been hearing since Ballet D. When Ms. Denise taught us when we were itty-bitty she used to tell us a story about Cheddar the mouse who lives in the mouse holes in our feet. She said that if we rolled in on our ankles we would kill Cheddar. Now that we’re older we know that the correction was not to roll in on your feet because it’s really bad for your ankles. But back then, I always felt bad for little Cheddar because a lot of people, including me, were squishing his little mouse hole.

3. “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” This phrase is heard a lot when Ms. Gail teaches our classes. While we’re dancing we have to be thinking about a million things at once. When Ms. Gail stops the music to work on a certain correction she uses this phrase to remind of the many other corrections we have to be thinking about at the same time. This concept is one of the hardest things to master because every correction can apply to every step all the time and you have to remember all of them.

4. “Vertical shin, vertical spine” Our new teacher, Trystan Merrick, says this mantra over and over during class. This correction helps with your posture, which is a major component in every part of ballet. During class, Trystan emphasizes keeping your shinbone and vertebrae completely vertical over your first two toes to help with your balance. When I think about applying this correction to my dancing I automatically feel my abs pulling up and my spine lengthening.

If you’ve ever taken one of these teacher’s classes I’m sure that you’ve heard at least one of these phrases a few times. Hopefully, the next time you hear one of these expressions knowing the goal of these corrections will help you fix your own dancing.

~ Melanie Z.

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