Ballet warm up with Sayaka Wakita of Theater Dortmund. And her three warm up songs that sure to be stuck in your head.

This sponsored post is in cooperation with Falke.

Even though dancing ballet is creative and unique and all about trail and error and start again, there are few things that are gospel. And one of them is: Before you begin to dance, either on stage or in rehearsal, you need to warm up!
Every dancer has his or her own method, therefore it is always interesting if this method is being shared by the pros and since the warm up is the first thing a dancer does it only feels appropriate to start our cooperation with German brand Falke on this topic. We reached out to Sayaka Wakita of the Theater Dortmund to show us her way of warming up.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Sports bra ,  briefs  and  socks  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Sports bra, briefs and socks by Falke

Sayaka Wakita was born in Kasugai, Japan and has been a member of Theater Dortmund since 2017. She started at the Victoria Ballet Academy in Toronto, Canada and went on to the Royal Ballet School in Antwerpen, Belgium. Sayaka had engagements with the Yakutsk National Ballet, Armenian National Ballet, and with the Mersin State Opera as well as with Astana Ballet. She has also danced in various ballet competitions.

My warm up is usually not longer than 30 minutes to 1 hour but I do go to the gym during my free time to work on inner muscles and core strengthening.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Socks  and  jacket  by Falke. Body private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Socks and jacket by Falke. Body private

Let’s take a look how Sayaka warms up. Here are her personal 10 steps.
1. I drink coffee in an oversplit as soon as I wake up and I have a small treat (usually a small chocolate) in the morning.

2. Ankle stabilization with the Pita or Stabilizer Foam, 30 reps of plie, 30 reps of releves on both ankles

3.  When I get to work, I like to start by getting into the studio and going directly to the mirror. I like to tie my hair right in front of the mirror and check that everything is in place before my class starts. Ballet is also a lot about the aesthetics. Also it gives me a sense of meditation and reminder that you work for yourself and not for anybody else.

4. Stretching my back on the roller.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

5. 5-minute plank. There is not a day that I do not do this, even on days off or vacations. If I do not do this, my whole day gets wasted (literally). On the other hand, if I sleep in and I am late to work, but I still manage to do this exercise, my day will still turn out to be fine. It goes as follows:
1min plank for both arms
1 min plank for right side
1 min plank for both arms
1 min plank for left side
1 min plank for both arms
All continuously on a 5min timer lap

6. Feet exercise right and left. At least 20 sets with theraband

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

7. Stretches for the back (lie on your back and put your legs all the way to the otherside of the floor) at least 2 min of this.

8. Releve exercise for the ankle in pointe shoes

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

9. Side oversplit with a chair.

10. Class begins.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Body ,  leg warmers  by Falke. Tutu private.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Body, leg warmers by Falke. Tutu private.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Body ,  leg warmers  by Falke. Tutu private.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Body, leg warmers by Falke. Tutu private.

Music is also very important to Sayaka. You can often find her warming up while wearing her headphones and listening to music.
Her three must have songs include.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Tube dress  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Tube dress by Falke

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Tube dress  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Tube dress by Falke

Raise your hand, if you have the song Moves like Jagger stuck in your head now!
How do you warm up? What songs do you like to listen to when you get ready to dance? Let us know!

Here are all of Sayakas choices to wear to warm up. to dance or to look good when you are active. All clothes are by Falke. Click the photo to buy.

Eleven ballet documentaries, movies and tv shows to enjoy during the summer. Or any season, really.

Summertime is in full swing and you find many lists all over the internet for the best summer reads. But with mobile devices, netflix and shows-on-demand, it is only useful to replace the "must-read-list" with a "must-watch-list" to enjoy while lounging by the pool or at home.
We put together a list of ballet documentaries, movies and shows. Some new and some are old classics, in no particular order. Enjoy your summer!

1. A Ballerina's Tale, 2015

A Ballerina's Tale tells the story of the magnificent Misty Copeland's rise to the top. The documentary was released shortly before she was promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. You can follow along how Misty Copeland overcomes self doubt and also injuries while at the same time she is making history as an African American ballerina. This documentary celebrates black women, because you will meet other black women who have been the firsts in their fields. A wonderful celebration of determination, hard work and success.

2. Dancer, 2016

Sergei Polunin is one of the most recognizable and versatile dancers around. Some call him the bad boy of ballet. Others call him a genius. The name may not ring a bell, but you will recall, how he danced beautifully in the music video to “Take me to Church” by Hozier and directed by David LaChapelle.
His mother saw his talent early on and send him to gymnastic classes. But young Sergei rather wanted to be a dancer. With lots of talent and even more hard work he became one of the best dancers. Unfortunately the pressure got to him and with 22 he wanted to quit is career. The documentary “Dancer” shows how Sergei Polunin questions his career, but also how he makes it back to the top.

3. Sofia, 2018

A gorgeous, poetic short film by Shervin Kermani. He made this film as a thesis project while still in film school. This film is about an elderly man who doesn't have long to live. He has a dream in his deathbed that takes him through his life and retells memories that mark his life.
The dancer in the film is Sonia Rodriguez, the principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada. This short film is full of nostalgia and certainly worth your time.

4. Ballet Now, 2018

You really have to ask yourself how Tiler Peck, the principal of the New York City Ballet finds enough hours in the day. Last July she directed the Music Center's BalletNOW program in Los Angeles. She was in charge of curation, music and atging. She is the first woman to ever direct this program and Steven Cantor, the same Steven Cantor who directed Sergei Polunin, followed along with a camera. Ballet Now is streamed on Hulu and you really want to see this!
You will watch how a wonderful dancer and nice person (I'm assuming here, hoping to find out myself one day) take on leadership and authority to create a great music program. Women are usually the stars on stage, but men tend to be directors and choreographers, so it is wonderful to see, that a woman takes on this role. I have a feeling, there is much more directing in Tiler Peck's future. I'm here for it.

5. Leap! 2017

Grab your kids and enjoy this animated movie about a girl who wants to become a ballerina in 19th-century Paris. Yes, it is historical inaccurate. But it is about the entrainment. You'll meet two orphans, Félicie and her friend Victor, who wants to be an inventor. A former ballerina teaches Félicie the ropes of ballet and encourages her to follow her dreams. And there is a kick ass dance battle, too! Maddie Ziegler voices the devious Camille Le Haut.

6. The Red Shoes, 1948

Now, this is a classic! And if you are into the old dance movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, you will enjoy this one. British Ballerina Moira Shearer gives her film debut here and portraits Vicky, a young dancer who stars in a ballet called The Red Shoes, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Vicky falls in love with a young composer, but her devotion to ballet and to the role that made her famous threatens to tear them apart. This movie is ranked as one of the best in British film history and even won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.

7. Ballet 422, 2014

I love me a good fly-on-the-wall documentary. And Ballet 422 by Justin Peck (no relation to Tiler Peck) is as good as they come. Justin Peck is not only a wonderful dancer in his own right, but also a choreographer. He has received many awards for his work, including a Tony Award for Carousel. This documentary follows him along (like on the subway and his home!) while he is working to stage a new dance for the New York City Ballet. The 422nd dance to be exact, hence the name.

8. Flesh & Bone, 2015

The thing with mini series is this: When they are bad, you are glad, that they are over quickly. But when you enjoy them, you want them to go on. This is what happened to Flesh & Bone, a miniseries on Starz, about the dysfunction and glamour of ballet. Paul Grayson is the artistic director of the American Ballet Company and he is determined to turn it into the leading artistic institutions. Unfortunately, he can't count on his prima ballerina, Kiira to help. So all his hopes are placed on Claire Robbins, a ballet dancer with a troubled past. I really want more!

9. Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, 2017

“If I don’t dance, I’d rather die.” She means it! Dance is her life. She is one of the greatest ballerinas. She joined the New York City Ballet when she was 17 and spend her career of three decades here. This film portrait about Wendy Whelan sneaks up on you and hits you in the face. Hard. In 2013 Wendy Whelan at age 46 is struggling to recover from an injury. An injury, that could very well end her career. This movie is more than a comeback story. It shows how a dancer comes to terms with ageing, while she has to reinvent herself outside of ballet. The humility and honesty of Wendy Whelan in this movie made it so real and wonderful, it will leave you rooting for her and sometimes crying with her.

10. Dancer, 1987

I admit it, the trailer below is really cheesy! But the movie is entertaining. Besides Mikhail Baryshnikov and Julie Kent, former prima ballerina and now the artistic director of the Washington Ballet, play in it. This movie is about a ballet dancer who os trying to turn the ballet Giselle into a film version. There is lots and lots of dancing and also lots of love. This romance in the movies mirrors the plot of Giselle. When you know Giselle, you know what to expect.

11. On the Ropes, 2018

Technically, this has nothing to do with ballet. But if you are in the mood for an action packed movie, with sibling rivalry and lots of fighting scenes, this should be your pick. One character, Chloe, is played by Tina Pereira, a ballerina with the National Ballet.

Q&A with Steven McRae, Principal of the Royal Ballet

Steven McRae is a Principal of the Royal Ballet, married to Elizabeth McRae, also a dancer with the Royal Ballet and father of two young children.
Born in Australia, he started to dance, when he was seven years old. In 2003 he won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, which earned him a scholarship and made it possible for him to enter the Royal Ballet school in London. He has been invited to be a guest artist with various companies such as the American Ballet Theatre, Tokyo Ballet and the Australian Ballet, to name a few. Not only is he a fantastic dancer, but also a superhero! Steven stars as a character in a Japanese manga as the Ballet Hero.

Besides all his accomplishements, his commitment to his work and family, Steven McRae is also very active on his Instagram (go follow @StevenMcRae_, if you haven't already). His instagram is a wonderful mix of personal photos and a look inside the rehearsal room.

A few weeks ago he asked his followers to send him questions he would answer in a q&a. The questions were great conversation starters and his answers gave interestings insights and lots of information. He tackled topics such as body image, his diet, balancing his career and his family and why he dances.
Below you find his q&a in full. He was kind enough to answer one of Spectacle's question, too. We have not edited any of the answers. You can still find the original on Steven's Instagram.
 

No. 1. Question from @spectacle_arts ‘Do you think ballet dancers are athletes or artists?
Steven McRae: I recently did a talk at the @royalballetschool and this topic came up. I enforced my belief that dancers are Artists however I believe that dancers need to treat their bodies as if they are athletes. The discipline, routine, dedication, physical as well as the mental pressures are all in line with elite athletes. However, no one can ever put a score next to a dancers’ performance. Art is incredibly subjective which is why I love striving for more both technically and dramatically as each performance is live and therefore alive.

No.2 Question from @rosalind.dancer ‘Have u ever struggled with body image and if so, how did u deal with it?’
YES - The pressures involved with an aesthetic art form can be intense. I was told numerous times that I was too short & that I needed to change my vibrant red hair in order to blend in..... Who wants to blend in was my response! No one is born with the perfect ballet body. I have learnt to make the most of what I have. Sometimes your ‘imperfections’ in someone’s point of view turn out to be a wonderful feature.
Everyday is a quest to be a better version of myself. That is easier said than done sometimes however the challenge is always the fun part.

No.3 Question from @sophie_drake.x ‘How do you control your nerves and deal with pressures before a performance?’
Nerves are a part of performing however they are something we are not taught that much about when training. I have learnt that nerves can be used in an incredibly positive way to help give a performance an extra edge however if not handled correctly nerves can undo so much of the hard work you have put into preparing for the Performance.
Self trust is crucial!
Before the curtain goes up, I always remind myself that no matter what, I will do my best and that I believe I have put the work in in order to be best prepared for that moment.
A lot of pressure that performers feel actually comes from themselves. It is important to take some of that pressure off yourself by accepting that perfection doesn’t exist.....
If a performer appears confidently in control then chances are that the audience will feel relaxed watching you.

No.4 Question from @jahewr ‘Did people tease you growing up because you were a boy who did tap and ballet? How did you deal with it?’
Bullies are unfortunately small minded people who make themselves feel better about themselves by trampling on those around them. Fortunately, the degree of bullying I encountered growing up was quite low. I believe this was due to a few factors. The support of my family never wavered giving me a strong platform to stand on. Also, my love of dance and the desire to pursue my passion outweighed any pathetic comments thrown my way.
A lack of understanding about something can result in people making assumptions. Part of my passion now is introducing people to the world of professional dance and showing them a little insight into what it takes to do what we do.
I don’t have a problem being a Dancer that happens to be Male so the person next to me shouldn’t either?￰

No.5 A reoccurring question from many young dancers: ‘How did you manage your school work with your dance training?’
I started dancing at the age of 7 and by the age of 9 I was already dancing 6 days a week. I remained at a regular academic school throughout my training so I had to learn how to juggle everything very quickly.
My parents were always supportive of my Dance studies however they insisted that I focused on my academics too. If my studies fell behind then my dancing would be cut back. I quickly learnt how to maximise time management.
I strongly believe that energy produces energy and that includes proactive & productive energy. The busier my schedule got the better I got at utilising whatever time I had.
I probably didn’t have your typical childhood as I very rarely went to parties or other events through my own choice. I wanted to dance and that overruled everything!
At school I tried to retain as much information as possible during the day so that I could complete any homework more efficiently because as soon as the school bell rang I was out of the door & into the dance studio! Of course there were the few evenings when I was awake till 3am finishing off an assignment but it was always my choice to dance so much which is why the drive and motivation to do it was always there......

No.6 Question from @meiaponta ‘How do you balance family life with your career?
Finding a healthy work life balance is a constant challenge for everyone. My wife and I do everything we can to be with our children as much as possible however the demands of our profession can make this a challenge at times.
Since having children, I believe my wife and I have become more efficient with our time at work. I feel that I now use my rehearsals more productively.
My passion for my career has actually increased since having children as there is even more of a focus to my work. The children have also helped keep the pressures of my work in perspective.
We are fortunate that our children are able to travel abroad with us when touring which is not only wonderful for my wife and I to have the children by our sides but it is also a wonderful opportunity for our children to develop and experience new worlds too.
I hope that my wife and I will be an example to our children and inspire them to pursue their own dreams in the future. Stepping on stage is one of the most incredible feelings but nothing compares to the time that I spend with my children!

No.7 Question from @dancers_in_training ‘Who was your biggest inspiration whilst you were a young dancer in training?’
My dance teachers ignited a love of dance that I had no idea was inside of me and inspired me to jump head first into the world of dance however my biggest inspiration in early childhood actually came from Motorsport. My father raced cars in Australia & we followed the @nhra Drag Racing series in the USA. 2 drivers in particular displayed incredible determination to succeed against all odds & they continue to have an impact on the way I approach life, John Force & Shirley Muldowney. As I started to learn more about the incredible world of dance, the likes of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Nureyev & Baryshnikov all opened my eyes.
Interestingly, the day I watched a video in Australia of the final Pas de deux of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon performed by Sylvie Guillem & Jonathon Cope was the day I decided I had to become a Ballet Dancer! Ultimately now my children are my biggest inspiration. I think every parent wants to be the most positive influence possible on their children and that inspires me an infinite amount.
I love this quote and believe it to be true, ‘You can find Inspiration everywhere but inspiration has to find you working’

No.8 Question from @gioogram asking about advice making the transition from a student to a professional dancer!
Graduating from school and making the step into the big wide world can be quite a daunting time however it is important to remember that it is the beginning of a new exciting chapter.
The best advice I can give to students is to be like a sponge. Be open to continue learning every single day of your professional career. Watch and learn from the dancers that inspire you but also learn from the dancers that don’t necessary excite you.
Ballet class is vital for any professional ballet dancer and the day you join a company or embark on a freelance career is when you need to work even harder at preserving and developing your technique. Your body and mind will probably get a shock when you begin working professionally as your workload increases so that is the time to get into good habits of recovery, eating well and investing time in looking after your body.
One final tip, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice or guidance from the more experienced dancers in the company. Everyone was the new company member once ?

No.9 Questions about diet from numerous people asking
‘Can you please share your diet schedule during your training days?’ & ‘What do you eat before and during a performance?’

I have always tried to think of refuelling my body just like a car. If you put rubbish in a car it won’t function and your body is the same. That said, I do not like the idea of following an extremely strict program so I try eat everything in moderation.
I normally snack a lot during the day when rehearsals are back to back and you don’t want a big meal sat in your stomach.
Boiled eggs, raw spinach & bananas are something I eat regularly but some days you just need a boost of carbs so if my break is long enough I try eat a pasta dish or some other carb dominant food. Before a performance I enjoy eating sushi as the combination of carbohydrates and protein in a light format allow me to feel refuelled without feeling full. I always have bananas on hand in between acts and I am not going to lie, I LOVE sweets so there is always a bag close by for that extra sugar boost if needed!
Rehydrating is just as important so a drink with electrolytes is something I utilise during the day and also as the recovery process begins at the end of the day.
It is important for each individual to find what works for them. Ultimately your body needs to be fuelled so ensure you are never running on empty.... Your body will be happier and your brain will say thank you too!

No.10 Question from @jabumo ‘Why do you dance?’
I HAVE TO.... It is now in my blood!
When I stepped into the studio at age 7 I was an incredibly shy little boy. I instantly felt free and the whole world opened up in front of my eyes.
The challenge of forever aspiring to achieve an unattainable perfection is something I enjoy as I am able to learn something new daily. Performing is like experiencing a sixth sense. It’s like no other sense and everything becomes heightened when the curtain goes up.... I have never been good at learning languages however when I dance in any corner of the world I feel like I am able to communicate with any audience.
The human body is a phenomenally frustrating yet extraordinary piece of art that amazingly I get to explore every single day through dance - I feel very fortunate!

Thank you, Steven, for allowing us to publish the questions and your answers here on Spectacle.
Find his Instagram right here: @stevenmcrae_

Black Swan or White Swan - Fashion label Baustelle Berlin

You don't have to be a ballet aficionado in order to understand what „White Swan“ and „Black Swan“ mean. Heck, you don't even have to see the movie!

That is the great thing about the sweaters that Jan Hogenboom designs for his fashion label Baustelle Berlin. Baustelle Berlin translates to construction site Berlin. If you have ever been to Berlin, you would know how fitting this is. Besides it also describes the process of building a label from nothing with just an idea. The sweaters caught our eye over on Pinterest and a quick click on the link landed us right in a pretty cool online shop.

Have a good & quiet (or not quiet) Sunday! @camjames.hunter by @pauliosovari

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Baustelle Berlin (@baustelle_berlin) am

Besides the swan sweaters, you can also proclaim your love for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. In cyrillic. Spell checked and approved by Russians. No worries!

Marketing is everything and who could better model these shirts than dancers? The first photos were shot by ballet photographer Ira Yakovleva in St. Petersburg, Russia.
What really surprised us, was the price of the sweaters, the sweaters are made out of cotton, are oversized and unisex and cost between 40-50€, depending on the style you choose. There are plenty of labels out there that charge you much, much more for cotton sweaters with a simple print on it.

One thing that comes to mind is – what about sustainability with a price like that? Sustainability is a topic close to the heart of the founder, Jan Hogenboom. As a matter of fact, he dedicates blog posts to this topic and gives you some food for thought. Jan wants to reduce the negative ecological impact of his supply chain, that is necessary to produce his fashion. The other principle is to ensure fair and safe working conditions for the people working on his products. You can tell from his blog posts, that Jan gave this some serious thoughts and instead of complaining about what he cannot change, he focuses on the points that he can. Jan is open to start a discussion about this and is fully transparent, too.
Jan Hogenboom is 27 years old, from The Netherlands and moved to Berlin two years ago to work for a major online retailer. He has now taken the plunge and is working full time on his label, that has been online since 2017. A few years ago he picked up his hobby of dancing and even though he doesn't dance professionally, he has dipped his toes deeper into the ballet world. That's where the idea to Baustelle Berlin and its products stems from.

Baustelle Berlin hits the fashion mark, because it appeals to dancers and street wear lovers alike. In the future the label wants to produce more sweaters, shirts, hoodies and also dance wear, such as leotards, may be in the future. Regardless if you are a dancer or look for a gift for the dancer in your life, Baustelle Berlin should be on your radar!

Are you a black swan or a white swan?
Follow along on Facebook and on their Instagram.

The Nutcracker at the Semperoper in Dresden and a look backstage

The holiday season and the Nutcracker go together like bread & butter. There are not many ballets out there that don't have this beloved classic by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on their plan each year and if you follow dancers on social media, you will have been bombarded with photos. Personally, there is no holiday season without the Nutcracker.
There are a couple of houses where we love to watch a ballet. The Semperoper in Dresden was very high on our list and we got to tick that off this past December. A few days before Christmas we travelled to Dresden to drink mulled wine on the Christmas market (Cherry flavour. In case you want to know) and watch the Nutcracker live on stage. 
We love to go backstage and be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, checking out the costumes and the make up area, admire the props and watching the dancers warm up. The press department of the Semperoper was so very kind to allow us to come backstage and take lots of photos and even interview the two dancers Chiara Scarrone (she was Marie) and Václav Lamparter (he was the Nutcracker/prince). These interviews will be a new post.

Come follow us backstage, why don't you?

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times: Theatre, operas and ballet are the keeper of crafts. The costumes are handmade, so are the head pieces and props. Some of them have been used for many years.
The backstage area at the Semperoper consists of long, windowless hallways with lots of doors leading to the make up room, changing areas of the dancers or offices for the administration. You will have to know your way around. The hallways are filled with costume racks right outside the rooms of the dancers. Everything works and has to work like clockwork. Dancers are required to be in the make up chair at a certain time to get their face on. Getting dozens of dancers ready is no easy task. Discipline starts here.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

The rehearsal room is always my favorite. Mirrors from wall to wall, barres and a piano. For me (as a ballet lover but never a dancer), this screams ballet. The rehearsal room has a gallery for visitors that is located above the dancers. No photos allowed!
The Nutcracker in the Semperoper is a very traditional production and so is the set.

The look into the auditorium from the stage is pretty impressive. The interior is certainly one of the most beautiful ones we got to visit.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

The dancers warmed up, so it was time for us to head into the Semperoper itself. A German beer brand uses the outside of the Semperoper in their commercials and therefore people often think this building is not an opera, but a fancy brewery. It is smack dab in the middle of Dresden. There is the Zwinger to the left and the river Elbe on the left. In front is the theatre square that is filled with people dancing when Dresden hosts the opera ball each year.
Ain't she a beauty?

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

It is safe to say, this house has seen its fair share of catastrophies! The Semperoper was openend in 1841 and in 1869 a devastating fire burnt it down. But it was rebuild by architect Gottfried Semper, who gave the opera its name. In the last weeks of World War II in 1945, the Semperoper was largely destroyed by bombs, leaving only the shell standing. 40 years later in 1985 the reconstruction was completed. But then came the flood of 2002. The Elbe set large parts of Dresden under water and the Semperoper suffered heavy water damage.
Look at it now, though! Feast your eyes on the interior of this iconic venue.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

There is not only a red curtain seperating the stage from the auditorium, but also a fabric covered "wall" that opens up before the curtain raises. This curtain alone weighs 400 kilogramms.
Above the stage is a clock that works in five minute intervals. That clock comes in very handy, so you really have no excuse to get your phone out to check the time. Not that there is an excuse anyway.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

It is certainly worth looking up at the ceiling when you get a glass of bubbly (and you really should look up and get bubbly!). The Semperoper is a wonderful venue and if you can get tickets you really should. It offers a great variety in opera, ballet and concerts. Some are traditonal, some are new and unique. If you can't visit in the evening, take the tour through the house and find out more about the history of this house. It will certainly be worth your while.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

Thank you very much Semperoper for allowing us to come backstage. It was such a treat, we will talk about here and beyond for years to come. And we will be back!

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

Gift ideas for the ballet dancer and lover in your life

True: the holidays are not about presents. They are about good food, lights, songs, slowing down and coming together with friends and family. And yet, we are out there (or online) on the hunt for THAT perfect gift for our loved ones. What if the person, you want to buy a gift for, is a ballet dancer or a ballet lover?

Fret not! Spectacle has got you covered. We put together not one, but two gift guides, for the ballet dancer or the ballet lover and hope our ideas make shopping easier. Find our ideas for a man or a woman or a child below. Almost all gifts fit into stockings, too!

Gift guide for ballet, ballet dancer holiday presents

No. 1: A wonderful shade of nude for your nails, not to flashy so you can wear it day and night that is Essie's Ballet Slipper nail polish for you ($9).

No. 2: Bloch's 2018 planer helps you tutu remember your dates and even your preferred pointe shoes ($30)

No. 3: This amazing grace ballet rose spray fragrance by philosophy will have you smell like roses all day and will go perfectly with the body wash, shampoo and body lotion ($18) of the same collection.

No. 4: Seen on the feet of various fashion bloggers from New York to Paris, Miu Miu's ballet slipper have you dacing down the street (590€)

No. 5: A little ballet art for the walls, available and limited in different sizes. Ballet by Julia Rothman (starting $24).

No. 6: The classic belted leotard comes in a gorgeous magenta colour. Mary Helen Bowers with Ballet Beautiful knows exactly what a dancers needs (75$).

No. 7: These diamond kite shape drop earings by British jeweler Boodle are inspired by and in collaboration with The Royal Ballet in London. The whole collection is called "Pas de Deux" (price upon request)

No. 8: The oversized duffle backpack by Asos holds all your things and doesn't scream workout. So you can go from practise to dinner without a problem ($33). 

It is not easy finding gifts for male dancers or male ballet lovers. We hope these ideas below will make the dancer in your life happy.

gift guide male dancer, male ballet

No. 9: Francisco Estevez created "The Dancer". It is part of a gorgeous collection that features male and female dancers. Available in different sizes (starting at $27).

No. 10: Wear your love for dance on your back. This black hoodie comes in different colours and is available at Boys Dance Too ($35).

No. 11: Pack all your dance stuff in this backback and you are good to go by Boys dance too ($24).

No. 12: Finally jewellery for a male dancer or ballet lover that doesn't scream kitsch. Silver brooch by Cynthia Woong ($264).

No. 13: Finding a children's book that portrays male ballet dancers are hard to find. Start a collection with the beloved characters of a Mr. Men book. Mr. Men Ballet Show by Roger Hargreaves ($4). 

No. 14: You'll never have to worry what to wear to the ballet with this navy velvet smoking blazer by Zara ($150).

The National Youth Ballet, the highs and lows of growing up and a Spotify list

Imagine you are a ballet dancer. Imagine you have danced all your life, been to ballet school as a child, perhaps went to a high school where dance was offered as a subject, you have finished your training and may have been part of a company before. Now, imagine you are part of a company that consists of just eight dancers. Here you are a soloist and a group member at the same time. You will create your own repertoire and have the opportunity to come up with your own choreography. This company is part of the Hamburg ballet, with John Neumeier, one of the most successful choreographers around, as the director. You'll tour different countries and bring dance to your audiences rather than hope the seats will be filled at the ballet. You'll perform in theatres, just as much as empty swimming pools, retirement homes or inside a prison.

What a unique opportunity, no? Sounds exciting and too good to be true?

Well, for Natsuka Abe, Sara Ezzell, Charlotte Larzelere, Freja Maria Lützhoft, Marcelo Ferreira, Artem Prokopchuk, Emiliano Torres and Ricardo Urbina Reyes that is the daily grind. These eight dancers make up the Bundesjugendballett, the National Youth Ballet of Germany. Let's take it apart:

Bundes / National
The term “national” doesn't mean the dancers are German. Quite to the contrary – there is not one German dancer in the company this time around. But some of the dancers have completed their professional training with German institutions, such as the Hamburg Ballet. The dancers in this squad hail from the USA, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark and Ukraine and are part of the company for two years. The current team started working together in September 2017, when five new dancers joined them.

Jugend /Youth
Each year the National Youth Ballet holds an audition to fill the places that have become vacant and each year a couple of hundred of dancers are eager to move to Hamburg, Germany to be part of this exceptional group of young dancers. The dancers are between 18-23 years old and have already finished their professional training. If “youth” evokes the idea of amateur dancers, you couldn't be more wrong.  You can read the biographies of the current dancers on their website, every single one boosts an impressive cv.

Ballett /Ballet
The basis of their dancing is ballet, however, these dancers give it a very creative twist. Even though they exist under the umbrella of the Hamburg Ballet, they are very much independent. Because the National Youth Ballet is small, each dancer is a soloist and a group member at the same time. The dancers are getting an in-depth look into all the areas that are necessary to get a ballet together. The ballet also performs in rather usual places to bring dance to a new audience. The company has performed in a theatre, a prison, but also visited retirement homes.

Usually the National Youth Ballet rehearses within the Ballettzentrum Hamburg, but sometimes it is good to branch out. So they were on the hunt for a space where they could work for a few days. Here they wanted to create, change, rehearse, improve and finalize their programme. They found this space in an old warehouse complex in Hamburg. Surrounded by other studios, architects, artists and designers.

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Here they rehearsed for their premiere of “Im Aufschwung IX” which was put on stage this past week in Hamburg at the Ernst Deutsch Theater. For the ninth time, the theatre offered the ballet its house to showcase the new show. Using every inch of the stage and with very little props, the dancers let their performance do the talking.

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

They took the stage together with nine musicians and the playlist consisted of classics such as Igor Strawinsky, but also Leonhard Cohen and Tracy Chapman. The music and the performance take you on a beautiful journey of what it means to grow up. Putting to music that the process of growing up is not always fun, but can be confusing, tricky and painful. But in the end friendship, love and happiness prevail.
Listen to that journey yourself. We put the song list together in a Spotify list for you to enjoy.

Learn more about the National Youth Ballet on their website, especially if you are interested in auditioning yourself. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Gene Schiavone on the unsung heroes of ballet and the challenges to photograph Swan Lake

Sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time and need to know the right person. For Gene Schiavone, the person he knew was his wife Ellen. The right place was his home and the right time was a fundraiser event his wife had organised.
Mrs Schiavone had been a volunteer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) for years and she had a fundraiser at the Schiavone house, during which Gene Schiavone took photos he sent in to the press department of the ABT. Eventually, he retired from his corporate job and he would travel with the ABT Studio Company for two years and learn the trade of dance photography. After these two years, he got a shot at being the photographer for the main company. And the rest is history, as they say.

Mr Schiavone has been an acclaimed dance photographer for over 20 years and is the staff photographer for the American Ballet Theatre, his work has been published in every major newspaper and he has captured pretty much every dancer and ensemble out there.

We approached Mr Schiavone and he was gracious enough to answer some questions on who his unsung heroes of ballet are, who he wished he could capture and why Swan Lake has a special place in his heart.

Spectacle: What is important to you, when you take photos of dancers? What do you try to capture?
Gene Schiavone: There are two important elements in all my work, one is technical, the other is aesthetic. With regard to stage work, my first job is to document the performance from a historical perspective, to create an archival record. I recently photographed Misty Copeland's debut of "Giselle" and it was important for ABT to have a record of the performance. The goal was, out of 900 images, to tell the story of the ballet in a series of 15-20 photos. In "Giselle" it's the bench scene where she's plucking the daisy, the confrontation between Albrecht and Hilarion, the mad scene and Giselle's death etc. Each ballet has their own "photo points" which tells the story and you must capture. The technical aspects are very challenging due to severe lighting conditions which are usually low light and sometimes almost no light. There is always a balance between blur and grain. Fortunately, the new professional digital cameras allow you to get results that just weren't possible ten years ago.

The key to a successful photo is to bring out the emotion within the dancer.
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: Why is it important to have background knowledge of the ballet?
Gene Schiavone: I began with no knowledge of ballet. My introduction to the art was through my wife Ellen who was for many years involved with ABT as a volunteer, fundraiser and later as a Trustee. It took a long time and the rejection of hundreds of photos before I began to learn what was proper and what was not. The key is to anticipate the movement and that's done by listening to the music and watching the feet. Each movement has only one correct moment to be captured
so timing is critical. By taking a rapid series of photos, you'll most likely miss the right moment.

Spectacle: You have photographed so many dancers and ballet, is there one you haven't captured but wish you had? An event? A dancer?
Gene Schiavone: I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph some of today's most noted ballet dancers but I have always wanted to photograph Sylvie Guillem on stage. Tall ballerinas have such striking lines and she is an exceptional artist. Hopefully, there will be a possibility in the future.

Spectacle: Just like the dancers, you have to be on point when you take your photos since the moment goes by so quickly. Did you ever miss an important moment? And how do you make sure you won't?
Gene Schiavone: After many years I have finally come to the realisation that "you can't get every shot". For me, the greatest challenge is the opening of Act II in "Swan Lake"
when Odette enters from stage left, takes two steps into a grand jete. To me, it's the most important shot of the ballet and the timing is critical, she must be captured at full extension. There is almost no light and she is white against a dark background so exposure is very critical. It's taken a long time and many missed shots to perfect this. For photo enthusiasts, my camera settings are 360sec, F2.8, 16,000 ISO, -1 exp comp.

I have finally come to the realisation that “you can’t get every shot”
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: You mentioned before that Swan Lake is your favourite ballet to capture, what is so special about it?
Gene Schiavone: As in act II of "Giselle" act II in "Swan Lake" is difficult so it really tests my skill, it's very emotional, and has beautiful movement accompanied by wonderful music. I much prefer the traditional story ballets with their classic movement.

Spectacle: I'm sure you have taken thousands of photos, are there ones you treasure the most? Gene Schiavone: My archives contain over 900,000 photos from the major ballet companies both here and abroad. Since I've been an ABT Staff Photographer since 2004, much of my work has centred around them. However, I am fortunate to have worked regularly with Bolshoi Ballet, Mariinsky Theatre, Boston Ballet as well as many other dance companies such as The Radio City Rockettes. I've developed many personal relationships with dancers over the years and I suppose those photos are most important. I am a little saddened to think that most of my photos will go unseen. In a typical performance, I may shoot 1,000 images. After a second edit, there may only be 50 left which are ultimately approved for public use. That means 450 of the unchosen will sit on my hard drives and never be seen. Most of those photos are of the corps de ballet as approved photos are usually of principals and soloists. These are the true unsung heroes of a ballet. I always shoot "the girls in the back row", the dancers that do show after show with little recognition. To me, these are nameless dedicated dancers around which every ballet is built, yet they are rarely acknowledged for their dedication to the art form. In the years to come, their names may not be remembered but they will be kept alive in my photos. A photograph is a moment in time which immediately becomes the past, I see my responsibility as preserving those moments.

I am a little saddened to think that most of my photos will go unseen
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: Can you enjoy ballet without a camera? Do you go to the ballet when you are not working?
Gene Schiavone: I sometimes attend the ballet with my wife and often find it to be a different performance. When I photograph, I'm only looking at a small part of the stage usually centered around the principals. However when in the audience, I often see things I hadn't noticed looking through the viewfinder. I also see ballets in "clicks" that shot and that shot and that shot. I get very restless sitting there thinking I could be preserving these images.

Spectacle: Ballet is often perceived as something elitist and with social media and smartphones, it might be harder to excite a younger audience. How can ballet reach these audiences to be performers and/or patrons?
Gene Schiavone: Attracting a younger audience has always been a challenge for ballet. Every company I've worked with recognises the problem and tries to encourage that segment of the market by special events geared specifically to them along with discounted student tickets and special access.
Many are meeting the challenge through social media. Facebook, Instagram and simulcasting performances have brought ballet to a much wider audience. I actually have noticed more young people at performances in recent years.

Take a look at Gene Schiavone in action.

Thank you to Gene Schiavone for taking the time to answer our questions.
Take a look at a very small part of his portfolio of photos on stage, off stage and even on a cemetery.
GENE SCHIAVONE - BALLET PHOTOGRAPHY
 

Designed by Alice - How a ballerina puts her creativity to good use and designs gorgous ballet skirts. Amongst other things.

t's probably true, that a creative person cannot and doesn't want to focus the attention on just one area of creativity. Dancer, photographer, designer, illustrator (see what we mean?) ALICE WILLIAMSON, the über creative woman behind DESIGNED BY ALICE is a case in point.
A graduate of Elmhurst Ballet School, Alice Williamson has danced with the Northern Ballet, the Royal Opera, the Hong Kong Ballet before she joined Staatsballett Berlin in 2012. Now living in London and a freelance dancer, Alice juggles a lot of creative balls. One of them is her own line of awesome and particularly special ballet skirts. Her skirts are handmade in London and you can twirl in polka dots, harlequins pattern or in gorgeous peach!

We spoke to Alice Williamson about what is the hardest part of dancing, her creativity (and she got lots of that!) and what dancing means to her.

 Photo by   Olivier Barjolle  , used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

Spectacle: Why did you become a dancer?
Alice Williamson: It wasn’t conscious choice, more of an absolutely unrelenting and unquestionable need to dance. I wanted to see how far I could reach. I wanted to be part of that magic that I saw on stage. To not try would be far too devastating a thought! I was also acutely aware that I only had one shot at the ballet dream (I started my professional training really late, I was 16) and so it sat first and foremost on my list of life priorities, everything else could come later.

S: Being a dancer means to be very disciplined. Lots of practice, you need to travel a lot and you have to be conscious of what you eat. What is the hardest part of being a dancer?
AW: The discipline was something I thought I probably needed (although my general enthusiasm usually means I am incredibly hard working, so practice was never something I begrudged!) I tried to train myself to order my thoughts, become more patient: those are traits that don’t come naturally to me, but I wanted to master them! Dancing is hard, incredibly hard, and sometimes it hurts in absolutely every way imaginable, in my head, it was a temporary, incredible and privileged journey/life lesson that I had been gifted and until the input didn’t justify the reward I was happy to make those sacrifices. I’ve always treated food in a balanced way, I learnt about what food would enhance my performance, but was never restrictive with myself. It’s the fuel that makes you fly and essentially a better dancer … it’s now I’ve left the ballet –company and stopped dancing such long hours that I have to be more disciplined and conscious! Ha!

My soul needs to dance and my brain loves to create. I couldn’t live without either; they anchor and balance each out!
— Alice Williamson

S: You are much more than a dancer, how did you get started in illustration and designing fashion?
AW: I have always been just as interested ‘making’ as I am dancing, it sounds cheesy, but my soul needs to dance and my brain loves to create. I couldn’t live without either; they anchor and balance each out! I love the challenge of using my mind in all sorts of ways. I have done quite a bit of illustration, my dream is to write and illustrate a book, I hope that that may happen soon (ish!) The stage design is natural consequence of being a theatre mouse …who also has other skills.
I’d love to design for dance more: now that I am freelance, I theoretically could! It would be an exciting and interesting challenge!

 Photo by  Olivier Barjolle , used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

S: Do you consider ballet a sport or an art form?
AW: An ART that can be enhanced by sporting knowledge and training.  I see it as essentially a tool of communication, with bodies, movement. It shouldn’t be quantifiable, that defeats its purpose and it’s beauty.

 Photo by   Olivier Barjolle  , used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

All photos were taken by OLIVER BARJOLLE and used with permission. 

You can check out all of Alice's work on her website follow her on Instagram.
WEBSITE - DESIGNED BY ALICE
INSTAGRAM - DESIGNED BY ALICE
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Balmain designs costumes for the Paris Opera

Balmain's creative director Olivier Rousteing is one busy bee. After a highly successful collaboration with L'oreal and a sold out collection in H&M stores, Rousteing has set his eyes on the arts. The French fashion house will bring some glamour and aesthetics to the Paris Opera. Dancer and choreographer Sébastien Bertaud asked Olivier Rousteing to design costumes for the upcoming ballet "Renaissance" set to take stage in June 2017.
Rousteing and Bertaud have more in common than meets the eye: both men are the same age and both hail from the Bordeaux. On top of that both appreciate history and tradition, but also both like to walk off the beaten path. Olivier Rousteing has been a ballet lover and even took some dance classes as a young boy.
 

BALMAIN X OPÉRA DE PARIS #comingsoon #waitandsee

Ein Beitrag geteilt von OLIVIER R. (@olivier_rousteing) am

Sébastien Bertraud's ballet pays tribute to the legendary Ecole de Danse Française, from Versailles with Louis XIV to the Opéra Garnier. He also gave Rousteing a card blanche when it came to the designs. If the previous collaborations of Balmain and the opulent gowns seen, on pretty much every red carpet, are anything to go by, we can expect some amazing couture on stage. Costumes will be adorned with feathers, pearls, rhinestones and silver and gold embellishments. Dancers will perform in spencer coats, cardigans, and fringe skirts. 

Olivier Rousteing has dressed music megastars Beyonce, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. These experiences made him understand what costumes have to offer to be practical and shine on stage.  He took over as creative director of Balmain when he was just 25 years old and gave the fashion house a fresh direction. His talent and the friendship with various A-listers makes the fashion house of Balmain a favourite among fashion lovers worldwide. No doubt, a new area opens up for Balmain with this collaboration. It might not be the only time Rousteing wanders into the arts.

But there are other reasons why Balmain and Sébastian Bertraud are a wonderful fit. Bertraud is part of a new generation of ballet artists, who aim to entice a new fan base that will find their way to the ballet and opera more regularly. He discovered that Balmain founder Pierre Balmain designed costumes for the ballet in the Fifties. So this new collaboration is a nod to history and a big step forward into the future. It comes full circle.

This is not the first time fashion and ballet collide. The New York Ballet has joined forces with fashion big shots such as Jason Wu, Dries van Norten and also Narciso Rodriguez, while Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent have designed for the Paris Opera before. 

Fashion and culture lovers alike will have to wait a little longer until the Balmain costumes will be seen on stage. If you happen to plan a fancy night out at the ballet and want to see the Balmain costumes take centre stage, make sure you plan your visit between June 13 through June 18th.

Renaissance
Palais Garnier, Paris
June 13th-June 18th
Duration: 1h50 with one intermission

Buy your tickets HERE