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Corps Understudying

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

Hi! I decided to write about something very relevant to the time of year: corps understudying. As students get older and move up through the levels here at CalBal, some may get the opportunity to understudy the corps de ballet of the California Ballet Company. In Nutcracker, some students get the opportunity to understudy corps parts like Waltz of Snowflakes and Waltz of the Flowers. I’ve been understudying corps for two years and I hope to give you guys some tips that will either help you in future corps understudying experiences or help you learn about how important an understudies job is.

  1. Always dance as full out as you can on the side. When understudying the corps, you are usually learning from the side as opposed to actually being in the dance. It is important that you do as much dancing as you can on the side because if you get put in, you will be more prepared. Of course, no one expects you to do all the running full out and things that require a lot of space (usually there won’t be a lot of space because the dancers need their room), but doing as much as you can is a good way to become more prepared.

  2. Learn the patterns. Although it is good to learn a specific person’s spot, learning patterns is a good way to be able to know where everyone is at a given time. If you know the patterns, it will be much easier to go in to a variety of spots.

  3. Learn arms, feet, head angles, etc including upstage and downstage directions. This is really helpful when you need to reverse a step. Instead of learning something as the right arm or the left arm, think upstage arm or downstage arm. Sometimes you will be learning the left side and they will tell you to go in for someone on the right side. It will be much easier to reverse it if you learned it upstage and downstage as opposed to getting all confused and doing the wrong leg because you learned it as the left or right leg.

  4. Don’t talk on the side with your friends. Talking on the side with your friends is disrespectful to the dancers and the teachers. It shows that you don’t want to learn as much as the other girls that are being quiet and listening to what the teacher or dancer is saying. You will miss a lot of details and discussion if you talk so it’s better to save that for outside the rehearsal.

  5. Volunteer to go in even if you aren’t 100% sure about that spot. Things happen. Sometimes dancers get sick, sometimes their cars break down. Rehearsals and shows still need to go on without these dancers and that’s when understudies get put in. It is much better to go in to a spot and do as best as you can then stand on the side and act to shy to go in. No one expects you to be perfect and the other dancers are there to help you. It looks very good if you jump in right on the spot because those kinds of things happen in the theater and they will know to rely on you if you demonstrate that skill in the studio.

  6. Pay attention to details. The corps is a body of dancers so all the dancers should match in head angles, arms, body positions, and more. If you can pick up on the details, you will fit in more with the corps when you go in.

  7. Map out the formations and patterns at home. If you draw out the different formations in a notebook, you will understand the formations more in rehearsal. It is a good way to know where everyone is at a given time. Drawing out the formations is a very helpful tool to enable you to be able to go in for anyone on the spot.

Corps understudying may seem scary because you don’t necessarily learn one specific spot. As you understudy more and more, picking up on details and figuring out patterns becomes easier because you develop habits for yourself such as drawing out the patterns at home. Hopefully these tips will help out some of you with understudying experiences in the future!

-Lauren L.

CBS Student and Junior Company Member

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On the Balancing Scale: School and Dance

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Jr. Company Blog | 0 comments

Hello and welcome to the new Junior Company blog! We hope to provide you with a variety of articles ranging from show updates, helpful advice, ballet history, and more.

For our first post, let’s discuss something is relevant to all dance students. Dancers have demanding schedules that far surpass those of normal kids. There are technique classes, jazz classes, contemporary classes, and rehearsals to attend to. The majority are at the studio seven days a week and some stay until nine at night. With all this focus on dance, it is difficult for some to stay on top of their academics. Hopefully I can share with you some tips that has helped me get through these stressful years.

  1. Form good bonds with your high school (or middle school) teachers. Start by being interested and active in the classroom. Ask and answer questions, pay attention, and do everything a good student does. After actively participating in class, form even stronger bonds. Seek help if needed after school. Talk to your teacher. Invite them to performances! Make yourself known to them as dancer. The more you tell them about your “world of dance,” the more they become interested in you as a person, and not just a student. I know for me, my teachers were eager to be flexible to my needs as they understood I had many commitments. They will be willing to help you if you first show them you are a responsible, dedicated, and passionate student both in the classroom and the studio.
  2. Plan ahead. I cannot stress how important time management is. Make schedules and to do lists. Check of things once they are accomplished. If you know you have rehearsal on Wednesday until nine, but on Tuesday you just have class until six, do some more homework on Tuesday! Work ahead. If you know the weekend will be busy with dress rehearsal, do more work the week before. Whenever you are not doing anything, think to yourself about what you could be doing to help yourself later down the road.
  3. Utilize your free time. This ties in with the previous tip. In spare moments before class, in the car (unless you drive yourself), while waiting for someone to pick you up, you could be doing something as simple as reading your english homework instead of checking instagram on your phone.
  4. Don’t forget to relax though! Set aside time for breaks. If you know that you can’t concentrate on math for more than 20 minutes, then don’t push yourself past what you can do. Time yourself for 20 minutes and then reward yourself with 5 minutes of whatever you want to do. Then repeat until you are done. Give yourself an ultimate reward once you are done with all your work. This can be something like an episode of your favorite show or time to unwind with your favorite music.
  5. It is completely O.K. to miss a dance class every once in a while. It is understood that sometimes you get slammed with teachers assigning multiple projects all at once. Try to plan your “skip day” as wisely as possible though. Don’t miss an important rehearsal. Try to miss a day where you will be missing as few classes as possible. And don’t do this often.
  6. Understand that you can’t do everything. This is particularly difficult to accept. You will have to make sacrifices and choices. You’ll miss parties, sports games, and school events for rehearsals. Weigh the importance of your options. If you really want dance to be your life, then completely immerse yourself in dance classes, private lessons, etc.. If that isn’t your path, then don’t deny yourself the occasional school dance or football game.

Everyone wants something different out of this whole dance experience. Take time to evaluate what you want for yourself and your future. How will you plan your day to day life in order to maximize what can be accomplished? What do you have to do to reach your goals?

Remember to keep calm and dance on!


-Jordan B.

Junior Company member and CBC apprentice

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